It's often taken for granted that patients get adequate medical care when they visit the hospital, especially for a serious injury or illness. However, this is not often the case. Medical errors are more common in hospitals and doctor's offices in Pennsylvania and across the country than people may think, accounting for up to 440,000 patient deaths a year from preventable medical mistakes.
Many of these types of mistakes can be attributed to a communication error. It's important for doctors and nurses to track up-to-date information on the patients in their care. Crucial information that can mean the difference between life and death includes medications, vital recordings and anything the patient reports about his or her condition. Miscommunication is one reason medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Common medical mistakes that can be caused by a lack of communication
There are a number of frightening scenarios that can take place as a result of the medical staff not properly communicating. These include:
- Surgical tools left in the body.
- Surgery on the wrong body part or side of the body.
- Wrong dosage or medication.
- X-rays being misread or not communicated properly to the patient.
One such case happened to a man in Ohio, reported the Columbus Dispatch. A lawsuit filed by the man's family alleged that doctors and staff failed to check his records before allowing him to go into surgery for complications from a car accident. The man had complained to nurses about severe headaches, and they had noted this in his record. However, the man died during surgery. Doctors later discovered that he had a subdural hematoma that increased brain pressure; a simple CT scan and burr hole would have prevented his death, if his medical team had properly communicated.
Standard sign-out procedures may save lives
An assistant professor of medicine at Yale University conducted a study of 88 hospital sign-out sessions over 12 days. She discovered communication problems that resulted in more than a dozen incidents of inefficient care, some unnecessarily delayed diagnoses and even a few close calls. The professor stated that if the medical community implemented standards in sign-out procedures, as other high-risk industries do, many accidents could be averted.
Additionally, the Center for Transforming Healthcare discovered that improving doctor-to-staff communication reduced the chances of a surgical error from 52 percent to 19 percent, reported American Medical News.
Contacting an attorney
Medical errors are often serious and have long-term repercussions. If you or a loved one was impacted by a preventable medical mistake, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options.