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Communication Challenge

Michael Ashburn attends to an injured child

Michael Ashburn attends to an injured child. Photo by Samir Mehta

One issue that can be a problem within any healthcare system is patient handoff and communication among team members. This is especially difficult if the physicians and nurses speak different languages, and the medical record is in French [a language not spoken by all].

When we arrived there were no written notes for us to use. Patients had no name tags and X-rays were not marked by side (i.e. left vs. right). This, plus the [limited] availability of providers to provide care, led to delays in wound dressing changes, and little planning for future care.

Process Changes

Several changes in the process of patient care can now be seen. More X-rays have the side marked, patients now have ID tags, and we implemented a system of marking on the dressing or cast what the plan is to guide future care. In addition, with the help of our PIH partners, the incoming medical team will receive a rather detailed spreadsheet listing critical healthcare information for each patient we are caring for.


This report was written by Michael Ashburn, MD, MPH, MBA, during his participation in Haitian relief efforts through Penn Medicine in coordination with Partners in Health.


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