A Review of Verbal Order Policies in Acute Care Hospitals

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Abstract:

Background: Although verbal and telephone orders (VOs) are commonly used in the patient care process, there has been little examination of the strategies and tactics used to ensure their appropriate use or how to ensure that they are accurately communicated, correctly understood, initially documented, and subsequently transcribed into the medical record and ultimately carried out as intended. A systematic review was conducted of hospital verbal and telephone order policies in acute care settings.

Methods: A stratified random sample of hospital verbal and telephone order policy documents were abstracted from critical access, rural, rural referral, and urban hospitals located in Iowa and Missouri and from academic medical centers from across the United States.

Findings: Substantial differences were found across 40 acute care settings in terms of who is authorized to give (including nonlicensed personnel) and take VOs and in terms of time allowed for the prescriber to cosign the VO. When a nonphysician or other licensed prescriber was allowed to communicate VOs, there was no discussion of the process to review the VO before it was communicated in turn to the hospital personnel receiving the order. Policies within several of the same hospitals were inconsistent in terms of the periods specified for prescriber cosignature. Few hospitals required authentication of the identity of the person making telephone VOs, nor the use of practices to improve communication reliability.

Conclusion: Careful review and updating of hospital VO policies is necessary to ensure that they are internally consistent and optimize patient safety. The implementation of computerized medical records and ordering systems can reduce but not eliminate the need for VOs.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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