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Doctors Must Avoid Failures of Communication

Oct 16, 2015 | Firm News, Hospital Negligence

When it comes to a medical diagnosis, it is important for a doctor to have all of the medical information that is relevant to a patient. When something is left out or missing, it can lead to a misdiagnosis. The consequence of misdiagnosis can be varied. Some may result in an unnecessary treatment or prescription while others could lead to a catastrophic and deadly result, as when a complication during pregnancy is missed.

Communication is necessary for all parts of the medical team treating a patient. The death last year of a man caused by Ebola was due, in part, to the failure the doctor to be informed that the man had recently visited West Africa. A nurse had entered that information into the hospital’s admissions system, but it apparently was not provided to the doctor, who misdiagnosed his condition.

In a critical case like this, the misdiagnosis can rapidly lead to a patient’s death and hospital negligence lawsuits. However, even in less critical cases, the consequences can be significant. For one, there is the cost of the wrong treatment or therapy. This expense is always a waste and in an era of high medical costs, one that simply cannot be ignored.

In those cases, in addition to the wasted healthcare resources, there is also the loss of confidence in the medical system. Patients may be less motivated to visit a doctor if they feel that a previous visit did not effectively treat their condition.

Electronic medical records (EMR) can be helpful and assist doctors, but one physician suggests that any ability to use cut/paste within the doctor’s comments section should be ended. When he sees such behavior, he finds he can no longer trust anything in the record.

Many errors in hospitals occur because of handoffs, where information goes missing and decisions that lead to misdiagnosis are made in its absence.

Source: medpagetoday.com, “‘Failure to Communicate’ Drives Misdiagnosis,” Joyce Frieden, October 5, 2015