To the Editor: I was interested in the report by Coiera et al1 about communication in the emergency department and the accompanying editorial by Vincent and Wears2 (from the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively, where, incidentally, the practice of emergency medicine differs significantly from that in Australia). In no other discipline is facility in communication between doctors, nurses, patients and relatives, as well as colleagues in other departments, of greater importance, given the paucity of information at presentation and the time constraints for assessment, management and appropriate referral — all within a time frame of a few minutes to several hours, depending on the severity of the presenting complaint. Vincent and Wears allude to the "fluidity and complexity of the clinical environment" and rightly suggest that studies need to be designed to embrace a "need to appreciate clinicians' decision making and cognitive load".
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