Miscommunication: the Leading Cause of Medical Malpractice?
Research and analysis conducted by CRICO Strategies, which insures all Harvard medical institutions and their affiliates, has shown that miscommunication is a leading cause of medical malpractice claims.
This includes not only miscommunication between medical professionals, but between patients and medical staff. CRICO Strategies looked at 23,000 medical malpractice lawsuits filed between 2009 and 2013 and found that communication failures were a contributing factor in 7,149 of those cases, amounting to 30% of the total. That percentage was responsible for 1,744 deaths, $1.7 billion in hospital costs, and 37% of high-severity injury claims.
The actual numbers are likely much higher, because many patients are not aware that communication failures were the cause of their injuries, so they do not take legal action. If you suspect negligence was at play in your hospital experience, calling an Atlanta medical malpractice attorney to investigate is your best option.
How Does Communication Break Down?
There are a number of ways miscommunication between medical professionals can occur. In many cases, one physician will pass a patient on to a specialist, such as a primary care doctor passing a patient on to a cardiologist. If the primary care doctor does not provide the specialist with accurate and sufficient records and diagnoses, the cardiologist may not perform the correct treatment.
In other cases, a nurse or other hospital staff member may not pass vital information about a patient on to the doctor, such as the patient experiencing discomfort around an incision, or elevated blood pressure. Nurses generally care for a number of patients at a time, and work in shifts. It is easy for a nurse to get patients confused, or to forget to pass on important information to nurses taking over on the following shift. It’s also possible for a patient’s medical records, charts, or lab work to become misplaced or filed incorrectly.
Medical communication failures can also occur between a doctor and a pharmacist, resulting in a patient receiving the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. A pharmacist may also mislabel a medication or give improper instructions for taking the medication. Lack of communication between two or more physicians treating the same patient may result in prescribing drugs that may have adverse interactions.
As you can see, there is no shortage of ways medical miscommunication can harm a patient.
True Cases of Medical Miscommunication
The following are all examples of medical miscommunication CRICO Strategies discovered during its research:
- A woman requested that her tubes be tied after an upcoming C-section delivery. However, her request was not communicated to the obstetrician on duty. The woman filed a malpractice claim when she became pregnant again.
- The staff at a medical office received calls from a patient with diabetes. But, the staff did not relay the patient’s messages to his primary physician. The patient later collapsed and died from diabetic ketoacidosis, which is caused by lack of insulin in the body.
- A nurse failed to inform a surgeon that a patient was experiencing abdominal pain and a drop in red blood cell levels following an operation—warning signs of possible internal bleeding. The patient later died from a hemorrhage.
If medical miscommunication has cause you injury or the loss of a loved one, you need to contact the compassionate and experienced husband and wife legal team at Atlanta’s Grant Law Firm. Dial local (404) 995-3955 for a free case evaluation.
Communication failures linked to 1,744 deaths in five years, US malpractice study finds
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