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Medical Errors Caused by Poor Communication

Published on February 28, 2022

A leading cause of medical errors and harm to patients in the healthcare system is poor communication.  In fact, communication failure was cited for up to 30% of medical malpractice cases in a recent study by CRICO Strategies.  

The breakdowns in communication discussed by this study included:

  • Miscommunication regarding the patient’s condition between care team members;
  • Insufficient, inaccurate, delayed, or illegible documentation of patient information, medication notes, clinical findings, patient vitals, and more; and
  • Failure to read or notice pertinent information in the medical record.

Communication failures like these resulted in missed information and proved dangerous or even deadly to patients under some medical teams’ care.  

Why are Medical Errors Caused by Poor Communication Important?

Medical errors caused by poor communication are important because they are largely preventable.  The CRICO Strategies study found that communication errors are generally:

  1. The result of one person or department not knowing what the others are doing; and
  2. That many communication errors occur while patients are being transferred. 

These communication errors were both verbal and written, with most being “unrecorded, misdirected, never received, never retrieved, or ignored.” 

How To Improve Communication Among Medical Teams

Solutions for improving communication among medical teams include processes and programs to provide better information during nurse and doctor shift changes.  These include new computer technology as well as writing and verbal repetition of the transferring providers’ instructions and notes.

What Patients Can Do to Help Prevent Medical Errors Caused by Poor Communication

While patients are not present every time a member of their healthcare team communicates or changes shifts, there are ways patients can aid in protecting themselves against medical errors caused by poor communication.  

These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Stay involved in your healthcare.  Taking an active role by asking questions and learning the reasoning behind prescription choices and treatment strategies will help with the medical care experience and outcome;
  • Know and inform your medical team about your medications and drug allergies.  Keep a list of your prescriptions and over the counter medicines with you and go over these with your provider before accepting a new prescription;
  • Make new providers after a shift change or transfer aware of your condition and medications.  If your care has changed from previous orders, make sure to point this out;
  • Take a friend or family member with you to the doctor or the hospital.  It is easy to miss crucial information at an appointment, and a friend or loved one can help write down necessary instructions and details.  A loved one can speak with the doctor at the hospital if you are unable or call for help if your condition suddenly worsens; and
  • Confirm any medications or dosages you receive by mouth, IV, or syringe at the hospital before its receipt.  Ask questions if your medication or dosages have changed.

Contact a Phoenix Medical Malpractice Attorney for More Information

No matter the precautions you take on your behalf, medical errors happen.  If you suspect you were the victim of a preventable medical mistake, contact a medical malpractice attorney at Knapp & Roberts as soon as possible.  Our attorneys will evaluate your case, provide you with legal answers, and advise you on your next steps towards recovery.

Your consultation is confidential and at no cost to you.  It could also mean preventing similar medical errors from happening to others.  Reach out to Knapp & Roberts today as there is limited time to file your claim in Arizona.

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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.