Accident Case Study Communication Breakdown Quotes

Communication breakdown

Far more people in the world now have access to mobile phones than to working toilets.

August 31st, 2016

"We clutch our phones to show that we do know at least one other person--that we might look solitary but we have connections." -- Margaret Heffernan, from DYSCONNECTED: Isolated by Our Mobile Devices

And that might not be a good thing. We could be entering a new phase of mankind, a “dysconnected” dystopia.

“We are lonely but fearful of intimacy,” says sociologist Sherry Turkle.  “Digital connections may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.”

The American composer Libby Larsen has suggested the great myth of our times is that technology is communication.

“Surfing, clicking, texting, sharing, friending and liking,” says Anton Scamvougeras, “have arguably taken the place of looking, seeing, listening, talking, thinking and just plain doing nothing, hanging out or being bored.

“Are we losing the capacity for quiet solitude? Are we filling all previously-empty spaces in our days with electronic ‘busy-ness’? Have online ‘friends’ taken the place of the other sort? Have second lives replaced our first? And, if this is the case, should it be cause for concern?”

Anton Scamvougeras’ collection of 75 pen & ink illustrations depicting humans isolated by their person technology, Dysconnected: Isolated by our Mobile Devices  (Sandhill $19.95) provides matching quotes, opinions and facts, as well as startling stats about phone use.

Included are numerous quotes from futurist author William Gibson. All are sobering. “It’s easier to desire and pursue the attention of tens of millions of total strangers,” he wrote in his novel, Idoru, “than it is to accept the l0ve and loyalty of the people closest to us.”

Anton Scamvougeras was born in Cape Town, South Africa, moved to Canada in 1987, and lived in Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Southern Ontario, before settling in British Columbia. He is a physician and artist. His visual art work attempts to deal with questions of identity and place. He lives in Vancouver with his wife, Margot, and their three children. He uses his cell phone at least 20 times a day.

Here here are “PHONE FACTS” from his book.


Earth’s population: 7.4 billion people

People with access to mobile phones: 6 billion 1

People with access to working toilets: 4.5 billion 1

The number of active mobile devices and human beings crossed at 7.19 billion 2

Mobile devices are multiplying five times faster than humans 2

64% of Americans own a smartphone 3

Smartphone owners spend an average of 2 hours per day using their phones 4

46% of American cell phone owners say that it is something they “couldn’t live without” 3

95% of smartphone users have used their phones during social gatherings 4

70% used their phones while working 4

93% of smartphone owners use their phones to avoid being bored 3

47% use their phone to avoid interacting with the people around them 3

10% admitted to checking their phones during sex 4

57% reported feeling “distracted” thanks to their phone 3

36% reported that their phone made them feel “frustrated” 3

35% check the web before getting out of bed 19

Number of texts sent or received by an ave. 13-17 yr old girl, in a month, in 2012:  4000  (ave. one every 7 min.) 19


“No one’s forcing you to do this. You willingly tie yourself to these leashes. And you willingly become utterly socially autistic. You no longer pick up on basic human communication clues. You’re at a table with three humans, all of whom are looking at you and trying to talk to you, and you’re staring at a screen!” — Dave Eggers, author, in his novel, The Circle.

54% of children felt that their parents checked their devices too often 5

77% of parents feel their teens get distracted by devices 6

41% of teens feel their parents get distracted by devices 6

Teens watched TV (51%), used social media (50%), and texted (60%) while doing homework 7

Most teens do not feel that multitasking harms the quality of their work 7

59% of parents of 0- to 8-year- olds said they were not worried about their children becoming addicted to new interactive technologies 9

Parents who were highly absorbed in their devices tended to be more harsh when dealing with children’s misbehaviour 8

Children between the ages of 13 and 17 preferred face-to-face communication over all technological means of communication, because it was perceived to be more fun and because they could understand people better in person 10

The U.S. National Safety Council found that the use of cell phones causes 26% of U.S. car accidents 11

Reaching for a cellphone, dialing, or texting while driving increases crash risk by a factor of three. 17

30% of US pedestrians use distracting personal technology while crossing at high-risk intersections 12

After a 15-year old girl was killed by a tram while texting, the city of Augsburg, Germany, installed traffic lights embedded in the pavement designed to alert pedestrians looking down at their phones. 14

A pedestrian sidewalk lane reserved for heavy users of mobile devices, in the city of Chongqing, China, appears to have failed because most cell-phone users didn’t notice the new lane. 15

Sophie Ryder’s 20-foot sculpture ‘The Kiss’, depicting two clasped hands, had to be moved from it’s position arching over a path near Salisbury Cathedral, England, because people distracted by their cell-phones were walking into it. 16

Students experience significantly higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity when smartphone alerts were turned on 4

Students demonstrated reduced motor task abilities when their own or another person’s cell phone was visible to them 13

“We love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own.” — Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor

Students in a lecture who were not using their mobile phones wrote down 62% more information in notes, took more detailed notes, were able to recall more detailed information, and scored a full letter grade and a half higher on a multiple choice test than those students who were actively using their  mobile phones. 18


High frequency of mobile phone use is associated with disturbed sleep 20

The longer a teenager spent looking at an electronic screen before going to bed, the worse quality sleep they were likely to have 21

‘Text-neck’ or ‘tech-neck’ is a condition that results from constantly looking down at handheld technology.  22

Cases of near-sightedness have risen 35 percent since the advent of smartphones. 22

Too much screen time can lead to dry eyes. “It causes a decreased blink rate. People just aren’t blinking enough.” 22


  1. ‘More People Have Cell Phones Than Toilets, U.N. Study Shows’, Yue Wang, TIME, 25 March 2013
  2. ‘There are officially more mobile devices than people in the world’, Zachary Davies Boren, The Independent, 7 October 2014
  3. ‘The Smartphone Difference’, Pew Research Center, April, 2015
  4. ‘Study: Smartphone alerts increase inattention – and hyperactivity’, Fariss Samarrai, UVA Today, University of Virginia, 9 May 2016
  5. ‘The AVG 2015 digital diaries’, AVG Technologies. (2015).
  6. Felt, L. J. & Robb, M. B. (2016). Technology addiction: Concern, controversy, and finding balance. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.
  7. Common Sense Media. (2015). The Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.
  8. Radesky, J. S., et al. (2014). Patterns of mobile device use by caregivers and children during meals in fast food restaurants. Pediatrics, 133(4), e843–e849.
  9. Wartella, E., Rideout, V., Lauricella, A. & Connell, S. (2013). Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology. Report for the Center on Media and Human Development School of Communication Northwestern University.
  10. Common Sense Media. (2012). Social media, social life: How teens view their digital lives. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.
  11. ‘Cellphone use causes over 1 in 4 car accidents’, Gabrielle Kratas, USA Today, 28 March 2014
  12. ‘Impact of social and technological distraction on pedestrian crossing behaviour: an observational study’, L.L.Thompson et al, Inj Prev 2013;19:232-237
  13. ‘How Your Cell Phone Distracts You Even When You’re Not Using It’, Justin Worland, TIME, 4 December, 2014
  14. ‘This city embedded traffic lights in the sidewalks so that smartphone users don’t have to look up’, Rick Noack, Washington Post, 25 April 2016
  15. ‘A Chinese city is asking smartphone users to walk in their own sidewalk lane’, Rick Noack, Washington Post, 15 Sept 2014
  16. ‘Put away your phone and enjoy the world around you’, Michael Henderson, The Telegraph, 21 February, 2016
  17. Fitch, G. A. et al. (2013, April). The impact of hand-held and hands-free cell phone use on driving performance and safety-critical event risk. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  18. Kuznekoff. J. H. and Titsworth, S. (2013). The impact of mobile phone usage on student learning. Communication Education, 62 (3), 233-252.
  19. Joe Kraus speech, ‘Slow Tech’, TED among Friends, 19 April 2012
  20. ‘ICT use and mental health in young adults’, Sara Thomée (2012, University of Gothenburg Press)
  21. ‘Too much exposure to smartphone screens ruins your sleep’, Charlie Cooper, Independent, 2 Feb 2015
  22. ‘Techitis: Constantly using Smartphones Causing Widespread Health Problems’, Kym Gable, CBS Pittsburgh, 19 May 2016

978-0-9952056-0-4 /

This book is also available to indivduals via

Communication is important in providing top quality patient care. Any breakdowns in communication can lead to serious problems, such as patient complications or deaths. A new report shows just how much poor communication impacts hospital care. 

The report, written by patient safety experts CRICO Strategies, discusses how miscommunication affects healthcare delivery.

CRICO looked at over 23,000 medical malpractice lawsuits and claims where patients suffered some form of harm. Out of all these cases, it identified over 7,000 where the problem was directly caused by miscommunication of certain facts, figures and findings.

According to the report, communication errors don’t just happen because someone doesn’t fully understand what a doctor or nurse is saying. Errors “occur because information is unrecorded, misdirected, never received, never retrieved or ignored.”

In all, CRICO estimated these errors cost the healthcare system $1.7 billion, including the price tag of hefty malpractice payouts for serious injury or death.

The errors occurred in the inpatient setting, the outpatient setting and the emergency department. Injuries to the patient caused by these errors were mostly of high and medium severity. Out of all the high-severity injury cases reviewed, 37% involved some sort of communication failure.

Over a quarter of malpractice cases involving surgery, and 32% of all nursing cases, were caused by a lack of thorough communication in some aspect of patient care.

Common problems

Communication problems happened between providers, as well as between providers and patients. In some cases, a combination of both issues caused patient harm.

The most common provider-to-provider communication breakdowns were:

  • miscommunication about the patient’s condition
  • poor documentation, and
  • failure to read the patient’s medical record.

And common provider-to-patient communication issues involved:

  • inadequate informed consent
  • unsympathetic response to a patient’s complaint
  • inadequate education (such as about medications)
  • incomplete follow-up instructions
  • no or wrong information given to patient, and
  • miscommunication due to language barrier.

Causes of breakdowns

While each case is different, CRICO identified several common problems that play a role in communication breakdowns in hospitals, such as workload pressure, problems with a hospital’s electronic health records (EHR) system, workplace culture – and even just distractions.

There are also unexpected circumstances that cause communication breakdowns – including familiarity. CRICO cites a study that found more communication breakdowns occur among people who know each other than between strangers. Reason: People think they can use shortcuts in how they express themselves because they assume the other party will understand.

However, this assumption can be deadly in the hospital setting.

How to fight back

There are several strategies hospitals have successfully used to fight the costly, dangerous problem of miscommunication.

Besides regular teamwork training with a focus on making sure clinicians communicate clearly and directly with each other, some have tried to eliminate miscommunications in an area where they commonly occur: patient handoffs.

Hospitals have cut down on misinformation using the I-PASS method during shift changes and other transitions of care. I-PASS is a mnemonic facilities can adapt to ensure all of the following information is communicated when providers perform handoffs:

  • illness severity
  • patient summary
  • action list
  • situation awareness and contingency planning
  • synthesis by receiver

Nine hospitals used this strategy as part of a research study to boost patient safety. These facilities saw a 30% decrease in preventable medical errors due to improved communication of key information.

Other ways hospitals have improved communication include:

  • role playing and safety drills so providers can practice the communication skills they learned in training
  • direct observation of procedures by department chairs to identify and correct gaps in teamwork, and
  • EHR updates that help doctors better document important details about the patient’s condition.

Whatever tactic your facility chooses, it needs to make sure all forms of communication involving clinicians are top-notch. Developing and enhancing providers’ written and oral communication skills can prevent big errors that both hurt patients and bring negative attention to your hospital.

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