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Lack of communication leads to devastating hospital errors

The prospect of surgical negligence or doctor error is terrifying to most patients. The fact that several studies show simple errors in communication to be the root cause of a significant portion of medical malpractice cases does nothing to alleviate a patient's - or their concerned loved ones' - worries.

One analysis performed by CRICO Strategies examined 23,658 medical malpractice cases from 2009 to 2013. They carefully investigated clinical and legal records and identified more than 7,000 cases where communication failures led to negative outcomes and harm to patients. Of those 7,000 cases, nearly 2,000 involved a fatality.

Even a simple miscommunication or incorrectly filed document can result in catastrophic, life-changing errors. Unfortunately, communication errors can come in so many different forms that it has been a challenge to completely eliminate - or significantly reduce - this type of negligence. Situations that can lead to patient injury or a worsening condition can include:

  • Failure to provide clear documentation when transferring patients
  • Failure to flag serious diagnostic findings when referring a patient
  • Failure of lab to communicate results to primary care physician

With communication failures being a factor in 30 percent of the malpractice cases examined in the CRICO analysis, it is vital that hospitals make necessary changes. From healthcare facilities to laboratories to staff shift turnover, greater care must be taken to ensure the safety of patients. The fact that 1,744 deaths were attributed to communication errors during the five-year duration of the study should be eye-opening to healthcare providers and patients alike.

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