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Medical Errors Caused by Poor Communication

When you seek any type of medical care, you have the right to expect that your doctor will take your complaints seriously, use professional medical knowledge to come to the correct diagnosis, and recommend the appropriate treatment so that you can heal. You should also be able to assume that the medical practitioners in charge of your care will practice good communication. A lack of proper communication can result in deficiencies in your care as a patient – potentially causing you harm.

The Dangers of Poor Communication in Health Care

Communication is key in the health care industry. This includes communication between members of a medical team as well as communication between a doctor and his or her patient. Within a medical team, the presiding physician must communicate clearly and effectively with his or her assistants and nurses to take proper care of a patient. During an operation, for example, a surgeon must communicate properly with his or her surgical team. A lack of communication among the members of a medical team can lead to serious mistakes and patient harm.

Communication is also critical when a doctor speaks to a patient. Many adverse patient health outcomes are traced back to a lack of communication with their doctors, often at the time of patient discharge from the hospital. A doctor may fail to adequately communicate the need for the patient to attend a follow-up appointment, for example, or take a certain medication. This increases the risk of the patient experiencing negative health consequences after leaving the health care center.

Examples of Medical Errors Caused by Poor Communication

Clear communication is critical to the proper treatment of a patient in many circumstances. It is what enables a doctor to get to the bottom of what is ailing a patient, order the proper tests and accurately convey what they mean, prescribe the correct medication and dosage, and inform a patient of his or her prognosis and treatment options. A lack of communication or miscommunication at any point in the treatment of a patient can lead to a serious medical mishap. 

Common examples of medical errors related to poor communication include:

  • Medication mistakes
  • Overdoses or underdoses
  • Dangerous drug interactions or allergic reactions
  • Surgical errors
  • Wrong-patient, wrong-site or wrong-surgery “never events”
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Lack of informed consent
  • Birth injuries
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Failure to treat
  • Premature hospital discharge
  • Unnecessary surgery or treatment
  • Emergency room errors

Each year, thousands of cases of medical malpractice that result in harm to a patient can be prevented with proper communication. The importance of communicating well in a health care setting cannot be underestimated. It is often all that stands between a patient and a serious adverse health outcome, including a life-threatening medical condition or wrongful death claim in Philadelphia. This is why it is vital for all hospitals and health care practitioners in Pennsylvania to emphasize communication at their facilities.

How Can Poor Communication Be Prevented in a Hospital?

Medical providers have the power to prevent patient injuries connected to poor communication. Examples of actions that should be taken by a hospital and its team of professionals to ensure good communication include:

  • Using whiteboards and checklists to ensure seamless patient care.
  • Requiring doctors to double-check the patient and procedure details before starting a surgery.
  • Accommodating patients with disabilities and communication barriers, such as deaf patients.
  • Having a translator available for non-English-speaking patients.
  • Providing communication skills training to health care professionals.
  • Regularly evaluating communication skills by surveying patients.

If you believe that your recent injury, illness, infection or the loss of a loved one’s life was connected to poor communication at a medical center, consult with a medical malpractice attorney in Philadelphia about a potential lawsuit. If a preventable communication error is to blame for your losses, you could be entitled to financial compensation.