Communication Errors May Lead to Preventable Medical Mistakes

Communication Errors May Lead to Preventable Medical Mistakes

Medical errors continue to occur at an alarming rate, with reports placing preventable medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Further, medical errors are responsible for thousands of serious injuries, including birth injuries, brain damage and infections. Mistakes can occur in a wide variety of settings, and for a number of reasons, including carelessness and/or recklessness in treatment, lack of adequate training, and poor communication.

Communication errors can occur between staff- nurses and doctors not communicating a patient’s condition and the care needed adequately, during shift changes when the transition from one care team to the next where crucial details such as treatment, monitoring and medication needs may be compromised, and between patient and doctor where relevant questions may not be asked, or needed information not conveyed. A recent article examined communication errors from the perspective of costly interruptions – when someone other than the patient interrupts to provide details concerning how the patient is feeling or describe his or her needs.

In terms of preventing birth injuries, interruption to a mother’s message – whether a well-meaning spouse or family member- can have serious consequences. The article noted, “when someone’s message is interrupted, there is a high probability that the meaning of what they were conveying will be degraded or lost, and there is an increased likelihood of the message not being acted on or understood. In a healthcare setting this can have fatal outcomes.”

Thus, it is critical that doctors, nurses and other health care staff make efforts to ensure they communicate clearly with patients – and eliminate any barriers – to understanding a patient’s symptoms and needs.

For more information or if you or a loved one has been harmed by a preventable medical error, please contact the dedicated California medical malpractice lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.


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