OBJECTIVES: By self-report, interruptions may contribute to up to 80% of ordering errors. A greater understanding of the frequency and context of interruptions during ordering is needed to identify targets for intervention. We sought to characterize the epidemiology of interruptions during order placement in the pediatric inpatient setting.
METHODS: This prospective observational study conducted 1-hour-long structured observations on morning rounds and afternoons and evenings in the resident workroom. The primary outcome was the number of interruptions per 100 orders placed by residents and physician assistants. We assessed the role of ordering provider, number, type and urgency of interruptions and person initiating interruption. Descriptive statistics, χ2, and run charts were used.
RESULTS: Sixty-nine structured observations were conducted with a total of 414 orders included. The interruption rate was 65 interruptions per 100 orders during rounds, 55 per 100 orders in the afternoons and 56 per 100 orders in the evenings. The majority of interruptions were in-person (n = 144, 61%). Interruptions from overhead announcements occurred most often in the mornings, and phone interruptions occurred most often in the evenings (P = .002). Nurses initiated interruptions most frequently. Attending physicians and fellows were more likely to interrupt during rounds, and coresidents were more likely to interrupt in the evenings (P = .002).
CONCLUSIONS: Residents and physician assistants are interrupted at a rate of 57 interruptions per 100 orders placed. This may contribute to ordering errors and worsen patient safety. Efforts should be made to decrease interruptions during the ordering process and track their effects on medication errors.
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