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Defining Communication Errors

Understanding communication errors is a pretty straight forward endeavor. Errors or lapses in communication between medical staff can cause mix-ups in treatment, miscalculations when trying to determine how best to help a patient, or the loss of critical patient information. These medical errors can range in seriousness, and in many cases can lead to wrongful death . In fact, a study of malpractice cases from 2009 to 2013 revealed that out of 23,658 malpractice suits examined, over 7,000 of them were due to communication errors. That's about 30% of the malpractice cases analyzed, which is frightening to say the least. Communication error is obviously a huge setback to patient safety, but why does it occur so frequently? While it may be easy to understand the “what” of communication errors, determining why may be a little bit more challenging.

What Causes Communication Errors to Persist?

The causes of medical malpractice are often hard to determine, as many factors can go into treating one patient. However, there are some theories on why communication error seems to be such an enormous problem nationwide. Often cited reasons for these hospital errors include heavy workloads for hospital staff, a hierarchical workplace, frequent interruptions, and a poor system of electronic health records. While it seems the answer to preventing communication errors might lie in the digitization of medical records, electronic medical records may be causing as many problems as it solves. Electronic medical records are helpful in the modern hospital system, but a doctor or nurse still is responsible for entering patient information into an electronic database. This means that communication doesn't necessarily get better, just easier. This false sense of efficiency means that hospital errors can still occur with or without an electronic system. It seems as though communication errors are just a part of the medical community, and that the modern hospital system is set up in a way that allows them to happen...right? Well, while it may seem difficult, there are ways to minimize medical malpractice through communication errors.

What's Being Done to Prevent Communication Errors?

Correcting communication errors can be difficult, as most of the responsibility falls on individuals to relay information effectively. However, there is a system in place for some hospitals that may be a solution. I-PASS is a way for medical staff to transfer patient information during shift changes. I-PASS stands for illness severity, patient summary, action list, situation awareness and contingency planning, and synthesis by receiver. This structured manner of passing information from one caregiver to another helps to improve the quality of the information exchange, which in turn improves patient safety. It’s not a perfect system -- doctors in the I-PASS program admit they don't always follow through with all the steps. But, it is surely a step in the right direction.

If You Have Been Affected by Medical Communication Errors, We Can Help

Communication Errors can affect a multitude of medical patients. If you or someone you know has suffered due to a communication error, our highly trained medical malpractice lawyers in Ohio are here to help. They can help you take any and all legal recourse to make sure the right party is held accountable for the consequences of communication errors. To schedule your free consultation, call 216-687-0900 or contact us today.