Intelligent communications platform helps prevent medical errors

Terry Edwards

The Joint Commission has found that communication breakdown is the overwhelming root cause of sentinel events. Terry Edwards, CEO of PerfectServe, an intelligent clinical communications platform, is trying to do something about it.

Miscommunication can be a huge problem, says Edwards, especially when the typical 300-bed hospital has more than 500 communications per day.

"It's really about taking waste out of the process and speeding the communication cycle," Edwards says of PerfectServe. Communication is central to the delivery of care. If a hospital can speed up how fast a physician gets test results, patient updates and pharmacy questions, for example, it can have a positive impact in a number of areas, including patient flow, length of stay, and improving patient care, he says.

 [See also: Joint Commission confronts deadly miscommunications.]

Edwards, with a background in interactive voice messaging, got the idea for PerfectServe by observing the difficulty his wife, a nurse, had contacting doctors on weekends.

“We've learned that doctors have rules for how they should be contacted for every moment of every day, and they fall into categories," Edwards says. There are rules around the originating facility, the initiator of the call, the hospital department making the call, inpatients versus new admissions and time of day. There are dates and times for doctors who are on call, and all of this information changes on a regular basis, he says.

Hospitals depend on nurses, unit secretaries and third-party answering services to keep track of all this, some of them with rolodexes and instruction cards or websites. "It's pretty messy," Edwards says, "and the industry has just kind of lived with it."

PerfectServe currently has 52 hospitals and 22,000 doctors using what Edwards claims is a unique platform to aid communication and prevent errors. Some of PerfectServe's clients include the Advocate System in Chicago, Hoag in Newport Beach, Calif., St. Joseph Medical Center in California and the St. John Providence Health System in Detroit.

"It's been an interesting space and we've been working hard at it for awhile," Edwards says."When we went in we said here's this huge problem, and we fixed it."

According to Edwards, the only real competition PerfectServe is facing is the status quo.

[See also: Feds urged to dial-up care coordination goals .]