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Lack of communication can result in medical errors

Preventable medical mistakes are alarmingly common in the U.S., and include those that have been caused by a lack of communication among the medical team.

Patients and their families put their trust in their medical team when they go in to the hospital. Whether the reason for a hospital visit in Ohio is a surgical procedure, treatment for illness or a diagnosis, it’s crucial for the medical staff to have the most up-to-date information on the patient. This includes anything that has occurred after the patient has been admitted, from the recording of vitals to medication administration to the patient’s own statements and complaints.

It’s almost unthinkable that something can go wrong as a result of doctor miscommunication. This type of error is completely preventable but occurs at an alarming rate. In fact, Forbes said recently, as many as 440,000 patients each year die as a result of preventable medical mistakes. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the country. These mistakes include wrong-site surgery; surgical objects left in the body; infections from contaminated medical equipment; and wrong medication or dosage. All of these scenarios can happen as a result of doctor miscommunication.

Ohio man dies after surgery as a result of miscommunication

The Columbus Dispatch reported on one story, in which the family of a 30-year-old man was recently awarded $1.8 million after the man died from surgical complications. According to the lawsuit, doctors didn’t check the man’s records before clearing him for surgery following a traffic accident. The man had told nurses he was experiencing severe headaches, which the nurses noted in his record. After going in for facial surgery, the man died; it was later found that he had a subdural hematoma that was increasing pressure in his skull. It was believed that if a CT scan had been performed prior to the surgery, the hematoma would have been discovered and a simple surgical burr hole would have saved his life. Unfortunately, the lack of communication among the man’s medical team appeared to have led to his death.

Proper procedures can save lives

A Yale assistant professor of medicine recognized the problem of medical miscommunication leading to surgical errors and other mistakes. In a report released by the Yale School of Medicine, the assistant professor studied hospital sign-out practices for 12 days. Out of 88 sign-out sessions, she discovered the following alarming problems:

  • 24 total problems related to inconsistent sign-out procedures.
  • 15 problems related to inefficient care.
  • 5 delayed diagnoses.
  • 4 close calls.

The assistant professor said that other industries involving high risks, such as airline and trucking industries and nuclear power, implement effective handoff methods to other personnel, reducing the chances of miscommunication accidents.

American Medical News reported on a project that was conducted by the Center for Transforming Healthcare. In this project, participating organizations focused on better medical team communication. They found that with improved communication, the potential for surgical mistakes was reduced from 52 percent to 19 percent.

Contacting an attorney

It could help reduce accidents and save lives if the medical community developed standardized communication procedures. The potential for serious errors is grave. If you or your family has been affected by a medical error resulting from a lack of communication on the part of your medical team, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

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