Medical malpractice: Communication errors can kill

The impact of miscommunication on medical services can be inconvenient at best and, in the worst-case scenarios, fatal. Whether the medical staff is noting symptoms, charting diagnostic results or preparing a patient for transfer to a different facility, communicative accuracy is essential. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for miscommunication to lead to disaster.

A study examined five years of medical malpractice cases and reached some shocking conclusions. In studying five years of data throughout various medical facilities across the United States, CRICO Strategies linked nearly 2,000 patient deaths to miscommunication. In the study, 30 percent of the malpractice cases examined cited communication failures as a factor in the negative result. These 1,744 medical malpractice cases resulting in patient deaths that accounted for $1.7 billion in malpractice costs.

There are generally two levels of communication breakdown: Provider-to-provider and provider-to-patient.

  • Provider-to-provider errors can include miscommunications centering on the patient’s condition, inadequate documentation of symptoms and test results, failure to communicate treatment changes over a shift change, failure to forward a complete medical record, and entering incorrect information into a medical chart.
  • Provider-to-patient errors can include failure to procure informed consent, unsympathetic response to a patient complaint, failure to note symptoms on intake, failure to monitor and failure to inform patient about potentially adverse drug reactions.

Acts of medical negligence are rarely intentional, but that doesn’t excuse a medical professional from providing the personalized care and attention a patient needs. From a minor procedure to a significant surgery, doctors, nurses and every associated employee must recognize the importance of their role. If you were injured or have lost a loved one due to medical negligence, it is critical that you speak with an experienced malpractice attorney.

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