In some jobs, miscommunication between employees may result in a client getting the wrong shipment, someone not showing up for an appointment, or sending an email to the wrong person. However, in medicine, miscommunication can lead to serious injury or death for innocent patients.
According to CRICO Strategies, a research and analysis group, communication failures were involved in more than 1,700 patient deaths over a five-year period. The researchers looked at more than 23,000 malpractice cases from across the country between 2009 and 2013. They found more than 7,000 cases where, “facts, figures, or findings got lost between the individuals who had that information and those who needed it.” This included cases involving obstetrics, nursing, general medicine, and surgery.
The problem of miscommunication may be a much bigger problem than health officials realize. This survey only looked at cases identified as medical malpractice cases. Many incidents involving medical negligence or a breakdown in communication may never get reported. Doctors and nurses may fail to alert patients that there was a problem for fear that they will get into trouble.
In one case, a nurse did not communicate to a surgeon that a particular patient was suffering abdominal pain and a drop in their red blood cell count after an operation. These can be signs of internal bleeding. The surgeon was unaware of these complaints as the patient bled to death from an internal hemorrhage.
Another patient wanted to have her tubes tied after giving birth to her child. However, the obstetrician never got this information and failed to perform the additional procedure. Months later, the patient was surprised to find she was pregnant again. She ended up filing a malpractice claim against the health care providers.
The medical industry has been focusing on improving communication; however, there appears to have been little progress in the past decade. “We've been working on this for a long time,” said Frank Federico with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “And it still continues to be a big problem.”
A number of issues have been blamed for contributing to miscommunication. This includes complicated electronic health record systems, a heavy workload while balancing multiple priorities, and the workplace culture. In some cases, electronic medical records have improved communication; however, doctors and nurses also complain that a large portion of their time is now taken up with completing paperwork.
The Joint Commission, a nonprofit that accredits hospitals across the country, also found miscommunication to be a major contributor to serious medical mistakes. One estimate suggested up to 80% of medical errors involve miscommunication by hospital staff while transferring patients.
If you or a loved one has been injured or harmed as the result of negligent medical care, the Gilman & Bedigian team of experienced attorneys is fully equipped to handle your claim. Our staff includes a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience. We focus on getting you compensation for your injuries so you can focus on getting better and moving forward with your life.