Maria Theresa Mariano, MD

Maria Theresa Mariano, MD, (left) led award-winning research that may help decrease miscommunication about patients. Her mentor, Victoria Brooks, MD, looks on.

Mariano Receives APA Best Poster Award for Mnemonic Study

Published June 11, 2013

Psychotherapy chief resident Maria Theresa Mariano, MD, has won a national poster competition for research demonstrating the value of using a mnemonic device to aid crucial communication among psychiatric health care providers.

“The mnemonic likely helped residents focus on pertinent information.”
Maria Theresa Mariano, MD
Chief resident, psychotherapy

Presented May 18 at the 166th Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Francisco, Mariano’s poster received top honors in the curriculum development and educational category of the resident competition.

Goal is to Decrease Communication Errors

Mariano tested a training program designed to avoid miscommunication when a patient’s care is transferred to another medical team during shift changes in the psychiatric emergency room.

Psychiatric residents were trained to use the mnemonic (“PSYCH”) to help decrease communication errors.

The training’s effectiveness was evaluated by recording and measuring resident sign-out both before and after learning the mnemonic.

‘PSYCH’ Training Shows Positive Results

“The mnemonic likely helped residents focus on pertinent information,” says Mariano.

Results showed a post-training decrease in the two types of communication errors typical of transitions.

First, trainees missed less pertinent information (that is, errors of omission decreased).

They also used less time during transitions.

This may have decreased errors that occur when too much irrelevant information is presented (that is, errors of commission), which can obscure key patient issues, Mariano explains.

What Does ‘PSYCH’ Stand For?

The mnemonic stands for:

  • Patient information (such as age, race, gender and psychiatric history)
  • Situation leading to the hospital/clinic (such as type of behavior exhibited)
  • Your assessment (the patient assessment made by the health care professional)
  • Critical information (such as medication clarification)
  • Hindrance from discharge (such as a pending placement)

Helping to Fill a Need for Standard Patient Transitions

Despite increasing awareness of the need to standardize transition-in-care, “there is limited information on this in the field of psychiatry,” notes Mariano.

Her research demonstrates a mnemonic that may help standardize psychiatric transitions and decrease communication error.

This would help fill a significant need: The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare cites miscommunication as the second-most-frequent cause of suicide and restraint-related events. This can occur, for example, when critical issues are not brought to the attention of a physician, so a patient’s needs are not adequately addressed.

National Honor Among Medical Residents

“Dr. Mariano enthusiastically pursued this important project,” says her faculty mentor, Victoria Brooks, MD, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry. “Receiving the Best Poster award at the APA Conference is a much-deserved honor.”

Mariano also collaborated with Michael DiGiacomo, MD, UB psychiatry resident, and Calvert Warren, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry.