HCPLive Network

Even Brief Interruptions Dramatically Increase Potential for Medical Errors

 
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Even momentary interruptions of two to four seconds can significantly affect a person's ability to accurately complete a task requiring considerable thought, according to research published online Jan. 7 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Erik M. Altmann, Ph.D., of the Michigan State University in East Lansing, and colleagues studied the effect of short interruptions on the ability of 300 undergraduate students to perform a computer-based sequential task that combined a routine sequencing component with relatively complex individual steps.

The researchers found that long interruptions, averaging about 4.4 seconds, tripled the rate of sequence errors, while interruptions averaging 2.8 seconds doubled the error rate. Interruptions did not have an effect on non-sequence error rates, however, suggesting that interruptions can disrupt a person's ability to maintain their place without disrupting the individual steps themselves.

In conclusion, our core empirical finding is that, when someone is momentarily interrupted or distracted and then returns to their task, they may do so without obvious hesitation, but with an increased chance of resuming at a different point in their train of thought than they might have otherwise," the authors write. "This contextual jitter -- being taken out of the moment and landed back in a slightly different place -- may be why even momentary interruptions can seem jarring when they occur during a cognitively engaging activity."
 

Abstract
Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)


Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
 

Further Reading
Interim study results presented at ACG 2014 indicate that treatment with vedolizumab safely and effectively maintains long-term clinical remission and response in patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
A child receives the wrong medication or the wrong dosage every 8 minutes in the United States, according to a study published online Oct. 20 in Pediatrics.
A three-minute diagnostic assessment (3D-Confusion Assessment Method) has high sensitivity and specificity for identifying delirium, according to a study published in the Oct. 21 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In the era of rapidly improving cure rates for hepatitis C infection, has the importance of staging as part of treatment diminished?
Study results show that patients suffering from active inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are at risk for poor prognoses following an initial myocardial infarction.
New research provides some of the first concrete support for a treatment guideline that has long been recommended on grounds of common sense alone: Patients who suffer severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis should follow up on their emergency room care by seeing an allergist or immunologist.
Children may be at lower risk of Ebola virus disease, but physicians should be aware of the signs and symptoms, according to a viewpoint piece published online Oct. 17 in JAMA Pediatrics.
More Reading