New Study Links Communication Failures to More than 1,700 Deaths in Five Years
In a 2015 study of a database of approximately 30 percent of U.S. malpractice cases from 400 hospitals, including more than 30 academic and teaching hospitals, it was revealed that hospitals and other medical providers might have avoided 1,744 deaths — and $1.7 billion in malpractice costs — if medical staff and patients communicated better.
The communication breakdowns vary but some of the highlights include where a nurse failed to tell a surgeon that a patient experienced abdominal pain and a drop in the level of red blood cells after the operation — alarming signs of possible internal bleeding. The patient later died of a hemorrhage.
In another case, medical office staff received calls from a diabetic patient, but did not relay the messages to the patient’s primary care provider, so the patient never got a call back. The patient later collapsed and died from diabetic ketoacidosis, which arises when the body doesn’t have enough insulin.
There are several excuses posited by healthcare providers for the communication errors including heavy workloads, hierarchical workplace cultures, cumbersome electronic health records, and constant interruptions but these will not bring back those dead or seriously injured by these errors.