The Eisen Law Firm - Attorneys Focusing Exclusively On Medical Malpractice
3601 Green Rd, Suite 308
Cleveland OH 44122
Call For A Free Consultation

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Caused By Communication Errors

One more thing to add to your list before entering a hospital: find out how the medical staff communicates. Your life might depend on it. As if worries about sepsis, staph infections, COVID, and other possible diseases you may encounter in a hospital setting are not enough, medical staff communication errors now goes on that list.

A study from 2016 shows that over a five year period, at least 30 percent of the injuries documented in medical malpractice cases, including at least 1,744 deaths, were caused by the medical team’s communication errors. The medical malpractice costs for these communication errors was $1.7 billion.

What Are Communication Failures?

Communication failures happen when doctors, nurses, and medical personnel fail to clearly communicate essential information to each other about each patient. A communication failure also includes unclear or non-existent communication between patients and medical staff.

Examples from the study include cases where:

All three examples served as the basis for medical malpractice claims caused by communication failures.

Why Do Communication Failures Happen?

Hospital and medical settings often are epicenters for crises. What happens in these places truly can be a matter of life and death. In addition to the stress of being responsible for people’s lives, it’s common for medical personnel to work long shifts, often with a heavy case load. Stress, lack of rest, and dealing with too many patients is a perfect recipe for communication failures.

Besides these challenges, medical centers often are organized hierarchically. So, instead of a supportive team working together, complementing each other’s efforts and providing back-up and oversight, medical personnel often revolve around a single, controlling figure, such as a head nurse or head doctor. In addition to the added performance stress under this set-up, there are few collaborative partners to catch each other’s oversights.

One other cause for medical miscommunications arises from the extensive electronic health records that are ubiquitous. Data-entry errors are as common in these records as they are in all general record-keeping but carry much graver consequences for errors.

Additionally, although electronic medical records were intended partially to improve communications, sometimes they work in the opposite direction. For example, in the five-year study mentioned above, one woman’s cancer diagnosis delayed a year because the diagnostic lab report was entered into her electronic health record but not sent to her primary care provider. Another patient died from lung congestion, although his primary care provider had referred him to a lung doctor nine days earlier. The primary care doctor didn’t reference the lab results signaling possible early congestive heart failure in his referral, and just assumed the lung doctor would see them in the medical record.

Finally, 80 percent of serious medical errors may be based on medical staff miscommunication during patients’ transfers. Faulty or ineffective hand-off communication now is recognized as a critical patient safety problem. The hand-off process involves “senders” who are caregivers transmitting patient information and transitioning the care of a patient to the next clinician, and “receivers” – caregivers who accept the patient information and care of that patient. Besides sometimes resulting in patient harm, defective hand-offs can cause treatment delays, inappropriate treatment, and increased hospital stays_._

Ways to Avoid Being the Victim of Medical Miscommunications

The best way to ensure your medical center stay is as uneventful as possible is to enlist some family or friends to be your advocate. This means having someone with you from the beginning to the end of your hospital stay. Someone who fully understands your medical issue and the prescribed treatment, and who is committed to asking questions when things don’t look right. Advocates need to be prepared to object to anything that doesn’t seem right. Adequately-prepared advocates know exactly what the patient’s illness is, what treatments are being provided, and the identity of the physician in charge of the hospital stay.

The Eisen Law Firm – Ohio Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Medical malpractice cases can come about from a medical team’s lack of communication or miscommunication. If you should fall victim to a medical provider’s substandard treatment, you have legal options. Get in touch with a skilled Ohio medical malpractice lawyer who can help you through this process. The Eisen Law Firm has spent more than four decades exclusively advocating for victims of medical malpractice. We are skilled at holding bad doctors accountable for harming patients through communication errors among other forms of misconduct. Our medical malpractice attorneys will work hard to help ensure that you are fully compensated by the medical team who failed you. You and your family deserve compensation and justice. Contact The Eisen Law Firm by calling (216) 687-0900 or by contacting us online for a free consultation.