The impact of miscommunication on medical services can be inconvenient at best and, in the worst-case scenarios, fatal. Whether the medical staff is noting symptoms, charting diagnostic results or preparing a patient for transfer to a different facility, communicative accuracy is essential. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for miscommunication to lead to disaster.
A study examined five years of medical malpractice cases and reached some shocking conclusions. In studying five years of data throughout various medical facilities across the United States, CRICO Strategies linked nearly 2,000 patient deaths to miscommunication. In the study, 30 percent of the malpractice cases examined cited communication failures as a factor in the negative result. These 1,744 medical malpractice cases resulting in patient deaths that accounted for $1.7 billion in malpractice costs.
There are generally two levels of communication breakdown: Provider-to-provider and provider-to-patient.
Provider-to-provider errors can include miscommunications centering on the patient’s condition, inadequate documentation of symptoms and test results, failure to communicate treatment changes over a shift change, failure to forward a complete medical record, and entering incorrect information into a medical chart.
Provider-to-patient errors can include failure to procure informed consent, unsympathetic response to a patient complaint, failure to note symptoms on intake, failure to monitor and failure to inform patient about potentially adverse drug reactions.
Acts of medical negligence are rarely intentional, but that doesn’t excuse a medical professional from providing the personalized care and attention a patient needs. From a minor procedure to a significant surgery, doctors, nurses and every associated employee must recognize the importance of their role. If you were injured or have lost a loved one due to medical negligence, it is critical that you speak with an experienced malpractice attorney.
No matter the complexity of the surgical procedure, patients trust they will be cared for in a professional manner. Unfortunately, numerous errors can be caused by an incorrect diagnosis, poor communication or mistakes by a highly-trained surgical staff.
Foreign objects left behind: While the entertainment media tend to exaggerate this situation to comedic effect a surgical staff will not leave a watch or cell phone behind during a procedure. However, it is not uncommon for surgical implements such as scalpels, clamps or retractors to be left at the surgical site. Additionally, materials such as sponges, towels or gauze can be forgotten by an inattentive staff.
Wrong procedure: Whether the error can be traced back to poor planning or poor communication, a patient who is given the wrong procedure can face health complications and numerous post-care difficulties. A classic example of wrong procedure error involves a patient undergoing a surgery intended for a patient with a similar name.
Wrong site: While it might be easy to diagnose a problem, numerous complications arise in an operating theater. An example of a wrong site procedure can include operating on the wrong level of the spine but can often be traced back to confusing the body’s left side for its right. Mis-identifying and operating on the left ovary or testicle, for example, when the right side was the focus of the surgery. Another dramatic example of wrong site surgery is the amputation of the wrong arm or leg.
Medical negligence can lead to severe complications and deadly conditions. Every aspect of patient care must be handled with care, attention and professionalism. From the initial diagnosis to the surgical team to the post-procedure care, a patient can be further injured by those trying to help. If you or a loved one was injured due to malpractice, it is critical that you seek professional legal guidance.
In the past, we’ve discussed common adverse drug events (ADE) and the risk factors associated with them. While these ADEs can represent serious harm for patients, there are several steps that numerous medical professionals can take to ensure the health and safety of those under their inpatient or out-patient care.
What can be done to prevent an ADE?
ADE can refer to a broad array of events ranging from an allergic reaction to two medications that interact in a negative way. Through the course of diagnosis, prescribing and dispensing the medication, a wide variety of errors can lead to serious complications and deadly consequences.
Ordering: Based on the diagnosis and accurate patient history, the clinician must take care to prescribe the appropriate medication. In addition, the clinician must note instructions regarding dosage, frequency and duration.
Transcription: Proper note-taking is essential in maintaining a high standard of care. If the doctor’s instructions are incorrectly transcribed, the patient can suffer in the future.
Dispensing: Not only must the pharmacist dispense the proper medication in the proper dosage, but the medication must be given to the correct patient with the correct instructions. Any error at any stage of this process could be deadly for either inpatient or out-patient care.
Administration: While mostly relating to inpatient care, the administration of the proper medication in the proper dosage to the proper patient at the proper time falls to the nurses and other trained staff. Giving the incorrect medication or an incorrect dosage can lead to disease or a worsening condition.
With all of these protections in place, it is unfortunate that errors still occur. It is not uncommon for patients to be given the wrong medication, doctors’ orders to be misinterpreted or a nursing home staff to get confused while handing out pills. If you or a loved one suffered an injury or illness related to an adverse drug event, it is crucial that you contact a skilled medical malpractice attorney at once. Based on the error, you might be entitled to receive monetary compensation from those responsible.
Millions of Americans depend on medication to prevent a worsening condition, alleviate the symptoms of a disease or simply maintain daily health. Unfortunately, medication errors, adverse drug reactions, allergic reactions and overdoses are adverse drug events (ADE) that can lead to illness or death.
While largely preventable, ADEs can impact inpatients and outpatients alike. Some reports estimate that ADEs affect 2 million hospital stays and account for more than 3.5 million physician office visits each year.
What are the risk factors for an ADE?
Adverse drug events might be preventable through proper patient education and the elimination of medical negligence. There are, however, several factors that can put both inpatients and outpatients at greater risk for serious complications.
Patient factors: An individual’s personal circumstances might directly lead to an adverse drug event. The elderly, for example, take several daily medications and are more at risk for adverse effects than a younger patient. Also, pediatric patients can be at risk largely due to the fact that their dosage is directly related to weight – aside from the numerous other factors that can impact a drug’s effectiveness. Additionally, an individual who cannot use simple arithmetic or who is illiterate might find it challenging or even impossible to accurately follow instructions.
Medication factors: Several medications have been listed as high-alert. A medication can be designated as high-alert due to the possibility of dangerous adverse effects. Additionally, medications can be deemed high-alert due to being look-alike or sound-alike drugs. For look-alike medications, the pills themselves closely resemble others. Confusion might also come from pills that have similar sounding names. A pharmacist might make an error packaging a look-alike or sound-alike prescription which can have devastating implication.
Individuals trust their doctors, nurses and pharmacists to act professionally and responsibly. From prescribing and dispensing the correct medications and dosages, to properly educating patients about the medication itself, these medical professionals can cause serious harm through negligence or inattention. If you have experienced illness or a worsening condition due to medication errors, it is wise to discuss your case with an experienced legal professional immediately.
The AP (2/7, Perrone) reports the Food and Drug Administration issued a letter warning health care professionals "to be on the lookout for a rare cancer linked to breast implants after receiving more reports of the disease." The AP adds that breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) "usually forms in the scar tissue that forms around implants." FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Caccomo said, "Having everyone informed about this is in the best interest of the patient."
CNN (2/7, Karimi) reports on its website that the FDA said "at least 457 women in the United States have so far been diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma," and nine women have died from the rare cancer. CNN adds that "the rare cancer...affects cells in the immune system and can be found around the breast implant."
An injury that requires a trip to the emergency room is likely serious and quite concerning. When an emergency or urgent care staff fails to correctly diagnose your condition, it can lead to worsening symptoms and dramatic changes. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an emergency room or emergency department (ED) staff to miss a concussion diagnosis that is associated with head trauma.
A study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine demonstrates that misdiagnosis of concussion in adults is somewhat common in the ED. For the study, investigators identified 250 adult patients who met the World Health Organization’s concussion criteria. These individuals were seen at one academic and two community emergency departments.
Data were collected through a patient-focused structured interview and a physician-facing questionnaire. Additionally, the investigators assessed the patients’ symptoms at 30 days and 90 days following admission to the ED.
According to the data collected, approximately 16 percent of head injuries that met the World Health Organization’s concussion criteria did not result in a concussion diagnosis. The study found that there are numerous reasons why a diagnosis might be delayed or missed altogether.
Longer length of ED stay.
Involvement in a motor vehicle collision
Variation in physician experience and practice
Concussion symptoms can be debilitating and life-changing. Many sufferers find it difficult to lead a normal life while struggling with persistent headaches, personality changes, mood swings, blurred vision, memory loss and a host of other conditions. If you or a loved one suffered a delayed, incorrect or missed diagnosis due to medical negligence, it is important to discuss your options with a skilled legal professional.
Due to an increased reliance on technology, hospitals, urgent care and other healthcare facilities have lost the ability to effectively bury paperwork that does not show them in a positive light. Pioneering medical malpractice attorneys understand the importance of an accurate electronic record and the crucial role that e-discovery plays in the future of negligence cases.
In the past, it might have been simple for doctors or nurses to alter records to limit liability or hide negligence. As the medical field adopts electronic records, these alterations might be more complex. For example, patient records can be duplicated in numerous fields from billing to an EHR (electronic health record). In addition, many companies regularly back up data in a secure offsite facility. This is all done to ensure the privacy, security and efficiency of data handling and patient protection. However, this can work against someone attempting to change the file.
A detailed medical record – while beneficial to patients – might ultimately work against a healthcare facility in a medical negligence case. E-discovery refers to the act of thoroughly investigating a hospital’s electronic records to uncover inconsistencies, errors or faulty reporting. While record-keeping is essential, many procedures depend on accurate data. Spinal surgery, for example, depends on minute-by-minute electronic feedback of nerve impulses and nerve function to provide guidance and instant alerts if the procedure begins to fail. Additionally, birth injury cases, anesthesia cases, failure to monitor cases, pharmacology error cases and medical malpractice cases centering on a missed or delayed diagnosis can hinge on accurately following an electronic record.
It is wise to discuss your case with a firm that has both the legal experience and medical knowledge to provide the advice and guidance you need. Medical malpractice cases can be complex and time consuming. It is crucial that you have a skilled attorney on your side who can provide the legal representation necessary.
Many industries share an increased reliance on technology in their daily activities. From scheduling programs to digital record-keeping, health care professionals rely on computer-aided organization to stay focused on patient care and minimizing stress. But, are these steps enough to ensure proper care?
Can Electronic Health Records Prevent Harm To Patients?
Electronic health records (EHR) systems were developed to improve communication, record-keeping and patient safety. These enhancements were put in place to reduce errors or avoid them altogether. While more efficient communication can diminish some instances of medical negligence, patients still face numerous risks when visiting an emergency room, urgent care facility or hospital.
Fully electronic, in which everything from physician notes to provider orders are electronically generated.
Partially electronic, in which some record keeping and other components were electronically generated.
Non-electronic, in which no medical components were present in electronic form.
In the study, data from 1,351 hospitals was captured.
Were The Results Conclusive?
There were 347,281 exposures to adverse events recorded in the study. Of these exposures, 7,820 adverse events actually took place. This results in 2.25 percent of at risk patients suffering an adverse event.
“Thirteen percent of the patients received care that was captured by a fully electronic EHR. While these patients had lower odds of any adverse event, this association varied by medical condition and type of adverse event,” reads the report summary.
These results, while encouraging, do not erase the thousands of occurrences of medical negligence experienced every year. Simple things from sloppy handwriting to transcription errors to typos, patients are at risk for receiving an incorrect diagnosis or an improper medication dosage. If you or a loved one has experienced medical malpractice related to flawed Electronic Health Records or health information technology in general, it is wise to seek the counsel of a skilled attorney.
Patients trust that hospitals are clean, organized and sterile. Unfortunately, there are numerous ways – even outside contracting additional illnesses – that people can become victims. Each year, the ECRI Institute’s Health Devices Group identifies the top potential hazards facing those seeking care in the upcoming year.
Cybersecurity attacks: While medical facilities fight to get better about protecting their information management systems, they struggle against the increasing tenacity of hackers. Through the exploitation of remote access, hackers can bring a system down, slow it to a crawl or expose sensitive patient information.
Contaminated mattresses: Blood and other bodily fluids can soak into a mattress or mattress cover rendering them hazardous to the next patient. Beds or stretchers might appear sterile, but can contain dangerous contaminants.
Surgical sponges left in patients: The surgical team often relies on a manual count to ensure all surgical implements are removed from a body. Unfortunately, stress and the potential chaos of surgical complications can disrupt a count leading to materials left in the body which can, ultimately, lead to infection or other serious consequences.
Patient lift systems: When moving patients from a wheelchair to bed, the individual is placed in a swing suspended from an overhead lifting mechanism. Unfortunately, mechanical failures are a possibility as is the potential for untrained medical staff to cause injury.
Infusion pump errors: Mistakes such as entering the intended flow rate into an infusion pump’s dose rate field can lead to dangerous medication administration errors. Medical devices have become increasingly complex in recent years and the potential for errors has grown dramatically. Whether these units are misprogrammed or data was entered erroneously, medication mistakes can be deadly.
From defective medical devices to improperly managed medication delivery systems, hospitals can be dangerous places. While patients cannot control their risk when they visit a hospital, they can be aware of the potential hazards they might face. In the event of unnecessary suffering or a worsening condition, it is critical that you understand your legal rights to monetary compensation for the negligence you faced. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can explain your options.
Individuals are becoming much more accustomed to having smart systems such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana provide assistance, guidance or advice on a daily basis. As this technology increases, more healthcare providers are exploring the viability of artificial intelligence and the benefits that machine learning might ultimately have on diagnostic medicine. The reliance on any emerging technology must be tempered with careful attention to both the benefits and the dangers inherent in its use.
For most, the term bias has an inherent negative connotation. At best, bias can account for a form of diagnostic shortcut. At worst, biases can form the backbone of a discriminatory decision-making process. As noted in the article, “bias can be difficult to detect and thus may unintentionally find its way into the logic systems of machine learning products.”
As the machine searches for a diagnostic answer, it may begin to rely on gender, race or cultural similarities between other patients. A poorly designed program might fall victim to reliance on historical decisions and successful diagnoses. Conversely, a well-designed system can be programmed to track either its own or historic decisions in an effort to recognize patterns that disproportionately favor certain results throughout the process. While falling into a pattern does not mean the diagnosis is incorrect, it is crucial to recognize the presence of common results and not rely on them for an easy answer.
As new technologies emerge, the public insists that medical professionals stay on the cutting edge. Opponents of artificial intelligence are quick to forget that, at one time, X-ray technology, MRI and laparoscopic surgery techniques were new. When artificial intelligence has been proven to reduce the number of deaths caused by medical error by decreasing the impact of human error, it is conceivable that the failure to include established AI in a diagnostic consultation could be seen as negligent behavior.
In applications that vary widely from personal connectivity such as Alexa to autonomous cars, artificial intelligence is generally considered an “improving” technology rather than “emerging.” Many healthcare professionals are using AI in numerous ways. If you are concerned about the possibility of your chosen medical professional missing or delaying a diagnosis, it is wise to discuss your situation with a trusted malpractice attorney.