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The Grave Impact of Communication Failures in Hospitals

Communication failures in hospitals can have disastrous consequences. In fact, a new report states that poor communication among medical professionals may have resulted in 1,744 deaths.Ambulance

According to a CRICO Strategies malpractice study, researchers examined 23,658 cases of malpractice between 2009 and 2013. That accounts for about one-third of all medical malpractice claims, according to CRICO Strategies, which conducts research and analysis for the company that insures Harvard-affiliated hospitals.

Communication failures played a role in 30 percent of the medical malpractice cases studied, according to an article in STAT news about the findings. These types of mistakes may have resulted in $1.7 billion in medical malpractice costs, according to the findings.

Here are examples of negligence resulting from poor communication, according to STAT news:

  • A nurse has information that a patient who just had an operation has signs of internal bleeding - severe abdominal pain and a drop in the level of red blood cells - but does not tell the surgeon. The patient later dies of a hemorrhage.
  • A diabetic patient makes numerous calls to a medical office, but the staff does not inform the primary care provider. The patient, who never gets a callback, later dies from diabetic ketoacidosis (a lack of insulin).
  • A woman giving birth through a cesarean section asks hospital staff she wants to have her tubes tied but the obstetrician on duty never gets this request. The woman later gets pregnant and files a malpractice claim.

Lives Can Be Lost When Doctors, Nurses and Other Professionals Fail to Communicate

The report's co-author stated that the findings reflect problems in hospitals nationwide. Communication failures were reported among a variety of medical staff and between patients and medical staff.

In recent years, hospitals have shifted toward electronic medical records in part to improve the communication process, according to the report. However, this use of electronic records in some cases have led to communication failures.

Here are two examples cited in the STAT news report:

  • A woman's lab test revealed she had cancer. The result went into an electronic health record, but was not flagged by her primary care provider. She was diagnosed a year after the lab result went into the system - a shockingly long delay.
  • A health care provider failed to mention to a lung doctor that lab results showed the patient may have had early congestive heart failure. The health care provider incorrectly assumed the lung doctor would see this in the electronic record. The patient died about nine days after his lungs filled with fluid.

According to the report, communication errors may be a result from any number of challenges in addition to electronic medical records. Other problems that factor into communication failures include overworked medical staff, hierarchical workplace cultures and numerous interruptions.

In the wake of this report, it's critical for hospitals to take steps to address these problems and improve communication. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys in New York City have represented many patients and families who have been devastated by hospital mistakes that never should have happened.

Our job as attorneys is to help victims and their families obtain the compensation they need. But we also know a successful case result can lead to positive changes at hospitals and doctor offices - improvements that benefit everyone.

If you or a loved one was harmed as a result of a communication failure or some other type of health care provider negligence, contact Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC. Call 866-324-9211.

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