The potential for improved teamwork to reduce medical errors in the emergency department. The MedTeams Research Consortium

Ann Emerg Med. 1999 Sep;34(3):373-83. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(99)70134-4.


This article describes emergency department care work teams designed to improve team communication and coordination and reduce error. The core of this teamwork system is the teaching of teamwork behaviors and skills, development of teamwork habits, and creation of small work teams, all of which are key teamwork concepts largely drawn from successful aviation programs. Arguments for enculturating teamwork into ED practice are drawn from a retrospective study of ED malpractice incidents. Fifty-four incidents (1985-1996), a sample of convenience drawn from 8 hospitals, were identified and judged mitigable or preventable by better teamwork. An average of 8.8 teamwork failures occurred per case. More than half of the deaths and permanent disabilities that occurred were judged avoidable. Better teamwork could save nearly $3.50 per ED patient visit. Caregivers must improve teamwork skills to reduce errors, improve care quality, and reduce litigation risks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Continuity of Patient Care / standards
  • Cost Savings
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards
  • Humans
  • Job Description
  • Leadership
  • Malpractice / economics
  • Malpractice / statistics & numerical data
  • Medical Errors / economics
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Models, Organizational
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration*
  • Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Management / methods
  • Total Quality Management / organization & administration*
  • United States