Is There a Link Between Poor Communication and Medical Malpractice?
August 9, 2021
There is a clear link between poor communication and medical malpractice. Such communication failures can result in delayed treatment as well as misdiagnosis. Patients have a right to receive an acceptable level of care and be treated with respect.
Health care providers may miscommunicate among themselves or fail to communicate effectively with their patients in many ways. Types of miscommunications that are common in health care settings include but are not limited to the following:
- When determining symptoms, nurses, doctors, or other health care providers fail to listen carefully to patients or observe their body language.
- Intake technicians under stress during emergencies may communicate vital signs and events leading up to the patient’s current state, while missing important details of patient history.
- Nurses provide inaccurate, incomplete, or ambiguous information during shift changes at hospitals.
- Nurses or junior residents hesitate to communicate their concerns due to the culture of hierarchy within a hospital.
- Physicians do not carefully explain or emphasize instructions for taking medications.
When a patient’s health is rapidly declining, health care providers must provide as much information as possible very quickly. However, omissions or a lack of organization in the way providers present the information can jeopardize a patient’s survival.
What are the Effects of Poor Communication Among Health Care Providers?
The effects of poor communication among health care providers include but are not limited to the following:
- A delay in ordering essential tests.
- Patients experience delays in obtaining life-saving treatment.
- Patients receive the wrong treatment or procedure.
- Patients receive the incorrect medication.
The consequences of these effects may be serious or fatal. In one Controlled Risk Insurance Company (CRICO) study, researchers documented a case where a nurse neglected to tell a surgeon that a patient complained about abdominal pains after surgery and had a low red blood cell count. The patient was bleeding internally and later died from the hemorrhage.
Another study published in Wellcome Open Research documented a case in which a physician diagnosed a 50-year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis and provided medication without giving her clear instructions for taking it. The woman was supposed to take one medication twice weekly and the other just once a week. Since the physician did not clearly explain that to her, she instead took each medication once a day. After 11 days, she was taken to the emergency department with severe vomiting. Her white blood cell count was dangerously low and she developed severe ulcerative lesions, requiring her to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).
In this instance, the doctor had used the standard treatment in prescribing the medication but failed to clearly emphasize how and when to take it. The patient’s suffering could have been prevented had the doctor communicated effectively.
How Does a Culture of Hierarchy Affect Patients?
In hospitals, there is a culture of hierarchy and power differential between nurses and physicians and between physicians and residents. This type of culture can affect patients by resulting in a delay of treatment that may cause the patient harm. A nurse or junior resident may bring a patient issue to the attention of the senior physician but that provider may dismiss the recommendations. Specific examples of miscommunication due to the hierarchical culture in hospitals include the following:
- A nurse asks a junior-level resident doctor to call for additional help, and the resident refuses.
- A junior-level resident senses a patient is impending crisis in the middle of the night but decides not to wake up the attending physician for help.
When health care providers fail to communicate effectively amongst themselves, the results may include unnecessary harm inflicted on patients as well as financial costs.
Why Do Miscommunications Happen in Health Care Settings?
Miscommunications happen in health care settings for many reasons, including but not limited to the following:
- Workload pressure
- Ineffective hospital procedures
- Hospital hierarchy and other conflicts between staff
- Language barriers
- Problems with electronic medical records (EMRs)
- Lack of social skills
While a lack of people skills may come into play in some instances, miscommunication is more likely to happen due to systemic issues, such as when a hospital is short-staffed or when there are flaws in the protocol for observing and recording patient symptoms. These flaws are meant to be addressed by EMRs and electronic health records (EHRs), which provide a more comprehensive view of patient history. However, problems can happen when health care providers fail to properly enter data into the EMR or do not forward it promptly to the right physician.
How Does Galfand Berger LLP Help Medical Malpractice Clients Recover?
Medical malpractice happens when individuals seek treatment from medical professionals and are harmed because they do not receive the proper care. Galfand Berger LLP helps clients by performing the following services:
- Listening carefully to the patient’s explanation of medical treatment sought and the outcome of treatment.
- If the case warrants, carefully investigating the claim.
- Obtaining all medical records.
- Hiring medical experts to review the claim.
- Negotiating with insurers to secure the best possible outcome.
Medical malpractice is a complex area of law. Many times, a negative medical outcome is not the result of negligence. Building a successful case requires a lawyer to prove that a health care provider clearly deviated from the standard level of care. This puts the burden of proof on the patient. Next, a lawyer must prove that a patient’s injury was directly caused by that deviation from the standard level of care.
The medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP apply their skills to achieve notable settlements on behalf of their clients. Some past examples include::
Doctors, nurses, and other medical providers have a duty to provide competent care. It is important for patients to know their rights if they believe they have been harmed by a medical error.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Clients Who Have Suffered Harm Due to Medical Errors
Medical errors harm many patients each year. Health care providers are legally responsible for providing a standard level of care to individuals seeking treatment. Individuals have the right to seek recovery of damages if they are injured because a health care provided violated this standard. If you suffered harm due to a medical error that was caused by miscommunication, contact the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. Our experienced lawyers can help you determine if you have a valid medical malpractice case. Call 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.