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Miscommunication often a factor in medical errors and malpractice

When a doctor hands a patient off to another doctor, the transfer of care can too often lead to preventable errors. The result can be patient injuries and medical malpractice litigation, says the author of a recent Medscape article exploring the beginnings and ends of physician responsibility in patient handoffs.

Vital information about diagnosis, medication and care can fall into the cracks of doctor handoff at the end of one shift and start of another.

A 2015 analysis of more than 23,000 medical malpractice claims shows that approximately 30 percent involve a breakdown in communication -- the very problem that has its genesis in doctor handoffs. More than 7,000 cases featured incidents “in which facts, figures or findings got lost between the individuals who had that information and those who needed it."

More than 1,700 patients died in the cases that were studied and more than $1.7 billion was paid out by insurers, physicians and hospitals in medical malpractice litigation verdicts and settlements.

Fifty-seven percent of the cases involved "miscommunication between two or more health care providers" and 55 percent involved "miscommunication between providers and patients."

The analysts were quick to point out that miscommunications are not limited to doctors with poor people skills or patients with subpar language capabilities. Nor is it limited to misstatements or misunderstandings.

"Errors often occur because information is unrecorded, misdirected, never received, never retrieved, or ignored," the analysts stated. "The biggest vulnerability," they added, "is the void of information that the current provider passes on" or the misunderstanding of the information received by the doctor taking over patient care.

The communication problems exist in private hospitals as well as public facilities and VA hospitals.

A San Antonio attorney experienced in VA hospital negligence can help you pursue justice and full compensation for all damages to you or a loved one.

 

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