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Medical Malpractice: Communication Errors May Be Deadly

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Breakdowns in communication lead to poor treatment outcomes and raise the risk of potentially deadly consequences. Nationwide, between 60% to 70% of preventable hospital deaths boil down to errors in communication. When physicians, nurses, and other members of the medical team fail to properly disseminate information to one another, they negligently place patient health and safety at risk.

Horrible Horror Stories

Communication errors are an entirely preventable cause of death within a hospital or outpatient treatment facility. These errors include nurses who fail to tell physicians of side-effects patients experience, physicians who fail to update patient medical records, EMT’s that fail to inform emergency room physicians of medications administered during transport, etc.

In one instance in Cook County, a veteran suffering from PTSD was improperly restrained during transport to psychiatric treatment. EMT’s unaware of his mental health condition failed to properly restrain him which allowed him to open the doors of the vehicle and jump out as it traveled down the road. This led to mortal injuries for the veteran. 

30% of Medical Malpractice Suits Involve Communication Failures

In 2016 CRICO Strategies examined the root causes of medical malpractice suits filed by medical malpractice lawyers. Of the 7,000 cases examined, 1,744 involved fatal events. Researchers determined that approximately 30% of cases where patients or surviving family members filed lawsuits involved communication errors.  

Communication errors can result in improper treatment, administration of a toxic dosage, wrong-site surgery, delayed diagnosis, or missed diagnosis. Even when caught early, there is the potential that the injuries inflicted will have life-threatening consequences. Breakdowns in communication within the healthcare team are particularly dangerous when surgical procedures or prescription medications are involved. 

Never Trust, Always Verify

Patients and their family members must take a proactive stance when it comes to healthcare treatment. It is vital that individuals thoroughly question their physicians, nurses, and others responsible for providing care. It is imperative that medical records be thoroughly scrutinized for errors and that all treatments, potential drug interactions, and side-effects are discussed in detail.

Preventing miscommunication requires ensuring that all physical and electronic records are up-to-date. Patients and caregivers should routinely review their records and verify that the physicians, nurses, and other members of the healthcare team are properly recording patient health data, treatment regimens, and health progress. 

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