How “Huddles” Can Help Pediatric Care


Everyone knows that clear communication is key in any situation, be it in a romantic, professional, or medical setting. Misunderstandings can lead to fights or mistakes, or sometimes even worse. When it comes to pediatric care, open lines of communication are even more vital. Now experts are suggesting that brief meetings or “huddles” between hospital staff can improve a child’s care and prognosis.

Currently, most hospitals and clinics coordinate care through the use of computer networks by a circling around the clock staff. Due to this somewhat unreliable system, health care can be inefficient with extended hospital stays and long office visits, with a number of different specialists. Instead of using the current process, it is suggested that more huddles occur at several times throughout the day to update everyone on the current news and critical patients.

Huddles can be called by anyone and only last a few minutes, long enough to determine current “situation awareness.” For example, an emergency pediatric doctor can start a shift with 12 different people who have admitted and cared for a plethora of children. Throughout the shift, things make turn for the worse or the better, but consistent updates between everyone at the same time can make communication more efficient, improving patient care and best practices.

The huddle method was originally developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and the popularity has spread both across the country and abroad. The Partnership for Patients Initiative sponsored by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been implemented in several hospitals across the US and uses a community-based approach towards healthcare, which includes huddles. As of last month, the program has prevented 1.3 million patient harms and saved over $12 billion in health care costs.

After the approach gained success in Scotland, England began to consider implementation in their own healthcare system, specifically pediatric wards. There is currently a pilot program in place at 12 hospitals across England. The aim is to reduce hospital error and harm of up to 4,000 children by 2016 and also to involve patients and their families more involved in their care.

By changing the way hospital employees communicate and think, patient care can be greatly improved. In the UK program, experts believe that they will be able to reduce harm and error in children’s care by 50%. By building a program to protect our youngest and most important citizens first, we are ensuring that everyone understands exactly what is happening at all times and thus protecting the patient’s life and future.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Shota Watanabe

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