Functional Necessity of Interruption in Unpredictable, Demanding Task Environments

With Ben Swets (Grand Valley State Univ), Lazlo Ring (Northeastern Univ), Mike Greenstein (Framingham Univ), & Peter Viccellio (SBU Dept of Emergency Medicine). The Emergency Room and similar environments are characterized by distribution of tasks and information across team members, probabilistic problem solutions, limited and variable access to resources, fluctuating priorities, and uncertainty in the nature, number, and timeline of tasks. The frequent interruptions observed in such settings have been traditionally viewed as harmful to performance. We found interruptions instead to provide critical and well-timed reminders to complete unfinished tasks or to inform team members of shifts in case status. We found relevant interruptions to be valuable in the context of an ER environment and other high-demand situations. This project was funded through the James S. Todd Memorial Research Grant from the National Patient Safety Foundation. For further information about the project, click here.

Cognitive Processes Underlying Medical Diagnostic Errors

With Mark Graber (Chief of Medicine, Northport VA Medical Center) and Ruthanna Gordon (EPA Innovation Team). We jointly reviewed a large number of quality assurance reports of medical errors, and we developed a taxonomy of general cognitive factors that appear to underly a wide range of diagnostic error. This represents a first step toward determining appropriate interventions and medical tools aimed at reducing the second most common class of costly medical mistakes. This project was funded through a research grant by the National Patient Safety Foundation.