When it comes to health care, communication is key

Imagine a typical exchange with your doctor or a nurse in the hospital. You might be thinking about discussing your symptoms, answering questions and watching as notes are made in your medical record. Tests might be ordered or you may be sent home with a prescription to treat your condition. Your doctor may make a diagnosis and/or explain what you need to do next.

As you may notice, communication plays a major role in each step of this generic exchange, from discussing your symptoms to getting a diagnosis. Unfortunately, if this communication is inadequate or lacking, a patient’s life may be put in danger.

Sadly, communication is to blame in many cases involving medical errors. In fact, according to a study by CRICO Strategies, nearly one-third of all medical malpractice claims made between 2009 and 2013 involved communication failures.

These errors are made at numerous points in a patient’s care. For example:

  • Doctors may not listen to patients describing symptoms or take the time to ask clarifying questions
  • Mistakes can be made while entering or interpreting notes in a patient’s records
  • The wrong tests might be ordered
  • Test results may be misread
  • Typos can be made on prescriptions or illegible writing may lead to inaccurate reading
  • Information might be missing from a patient’s history or chart
  • Calls to a doctor or clinic can go ignored and un-returned

A patient’s health and life may very well be put in danger as a result of any of these miscommunications.

Unfortunately, between overworked doctors, crowded facilities and an environment that is constantly changing, lapses in communication may be all but inevitable. While not every case is an indication of negligence, there are situations when communication errors can and do lead to claims citing medical malpractice.

If you or a loved one has suffered an adverse condition as a result of miscommunication in your medical care, it can be wise to consult an attorney and explore your options for taking legal action and seeking compensation for damages.