Common Communication Errors Leading to Medical Malpractice

Common Communication Errors Leading to Medical MalpracticeWhen it comes to the professional medical field, when we think of mistakes that doctors make, we might think of a surgeon removing the wrong limb, a nurse giving the wrong dosage of medicine, or a doctor prescribing the wrong treatment. The fact is that most of these types of medical malpractice are caused by a lack of communication, or miscommunication by the medical team. Whether there was poor communication between doctor and patient, or between doctors and nurses, a simple missing letter or inadequate documentation can lead to chronic pain and suffering for the patient, or even a patient’s preventable death.

It is important that if you think that you have been the victim of medical malpractice that you seek out legal representation as soon as possible.

Physician-to-nurse communication errors

Communication errors between the clinician and the nurse are the most common. This includes reporting the incorrect information, or failing to communicate at all about patient medication or symptoms. In an example given in the HIPAA Journal, a nurse failed to communicate (or failed to document) to the physician that their patient had been experiencing abdominal pains. These abdominal pains were indicative of internal bleeding, and because these symptoms were not noted, the internal bleeding was not detected, and the patient later died due to hemorrhaging.

While communication errors can be a detriment to the patient’s health, they can also be a detriment to the patient’s finances. Some communication errors lead to lengthier hospital stays, full of unnecessary delays. Patient satisfaction with their care drops significantly when their treatment is delayed due to a miscommunication of the hospital staff.

Physician-to-patient communication errors

It is essential that there is clear and understandable communication between a doctor and their patient, both verbally and in written form. A physician needs to research and provide information for the patient on their follow-up care, and their medication. If there is a miscommunication of dosage or timing of a medication, or if the patient follows the wrong treatment plan because the physician did not properly explain something, it can lead to the patient needing to revisit the hospital as well as further health conditions and injuries. According to the HIPAA article, “poor communication can also result in inadequate informed consent,” and that is where the victimized patient may file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

What are common examples of medical malpractice?

While we may think of medical professionals as knowledgeable and educated, that does not preclude accidents and mistakes. Doctors, surgeons, midwives, and nurses are all humans the same as the rest of us. However, there is a difference between accidents and negligence. They no doubt know far more about the human body and its illnesses than we do, a patient should still be vigilant and ask questions when being treated by a medical professional. Based on new data published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, there are almost 22,000 preventable deaths each year, and most victims have fewer than three months to live.

Some of the most common medical malpractice accidents that occur due to poor communication include:

  • Medication errors. Anything from prescribing the wrong medication to advising the patient to take the medication at the wrong time, to giving the wrong medication to the wrong patient. These can all happen due to communication errors between physicians or between a physician and their patient.
  • Surgical errors. In a study done by the University of Toronto, “trained observers recorded 90 hours of observation during 48 surgical procedures.” During those 90 hours of observation, 421 communication events were noted, with 129 of them determined to be communication failures. The study concluded that one-third of all these communication errors produced effects that jeopardized the health of the patient.
  • Birth injuries. Medical malpractice in the delivery room or even during the regular treatment of a pregnant person can lead to injuries to both the mother and the infant. Clear communication during the labor and delivery process is key to a normal and healthy birth. Communication errors during pregnancy and birth can lead to the child having cerebral palsy, or the mother hemorrhaging, possibly leading to her death and death of the infant.

Physical injuries can affect more than just your health; they can affect your finances and your mental health as well. One miscommunication could mean missing out on work and a paycheck, affecting your ability to support yourself and your family. Injuries due to medical miscommunication can lead to life-long health complications, and if you think this has happened to you, make sure that you contact a legal professional to talk about your options.

If you believe you or your child were injured due to medical malpractice, seek out the help of the Kennewick injury lawyers at Telaré Law. Do not settle for anything less than you deserve. You should not have to pay for the countless hours and tiring procedures that end up with you only in more pain, especially when that pain was caused by the negligence and miscommunications of your medical team. To schedule an appointment with an attorney at Telaré Law, call us at 509-737-8500 or use our contact page. We have offices in Kennewick and Richmond and serve the Tri-Cities and all of Southeast Washington.