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It happens in many different ways. A radiologist fails to give imaging test results to a primary care physician. A nurse didn’t tell a doctor the patient experienced increasing pain during a hospital stay. A hospital fails to provide the treating doctor with lab test results. Communication breakdowns happen all too frequently in our healthcare system. In fact, a report issued by CRICO, an insurance program owned by Harvard medical community, said that communication failures in the healthcare setting can be linked to 1,744 deaths during a five-year period, plus $1.7 billion in malpractice costs. In nearly 30 percent of malpractice cases analyzed for the study, communication failures were a factor.

Types and Examples of Communication Failures

If you’ve had a serious medical problem, chances are there were several healthcare providers responsible for your care.

Communication failures can happen between:

  • Nurses and doctors. When a nurse doesn’t tell a doctor that the patient’s symptoms have worsened, their vital signs have changed, or that the patient has an allergy to medication, the patient could be at risk of harm. Nurses are often at the forefront of care—and it is their duty to ensure the treating physician has all the information he or she needs.
  • Pharmacists and doctors. Sometimes a doctor’s receptionist, instead of the actual doctor, will relay messages to a pharmacist, instead of the actual doctor, possibly leading to breakdowns in communications. If a patient has multiple prescribers, the patient may have been given two drugs that poorly interact. Prescribers also often see too many patients in one day, causing them to possibly confuse details or forget information if a pharmacist calls to clarify a prescription.
  • Radiologists and doctors. A doctor may fail to order the right test or a radiologist may fail to give a doctor the correct test results in a timely manner. Physicians forget to follow-up and radiologists see so many patients in a day, they met let things fall through the cracks.
  • Labor and delivery teams. Maternity wards are hectic places and many professionals are involved in the birthing processes. Communication breakdowns can occur between OB/GYNs, midwives, anesthesiologists, nurses, doulas, and more.
  • Specialists and PCPs. The patient might see a physical therapist, cardiologist, neurologist or other specialist. If important medical information isn’t shared between specialist and primary care physician, the patient could be at risk. Likewise, if the PCP fails to provide the specialist with adequate information, the specialist may be unable to make a full and accurate diagnosis.  

What Can You do?

As an advocate for your health, or the health of a loved one, you can stay on top of your own care. Do not feel pressured or rushed by a healthcare professional. Follow up with your providers and ask questions when issues are unclear. Seek a second opinion when necessary.

If you feel a communication failure between healthcare providers caused you or a loved one harm, please speak with one of our malpractice lawyers to learn about potential cause for legal recourse.

Strong legal help from skilled medical malpractice attorneys in Maryland and Washington D.C.

Severe medical mistakes should not go unpunished. Patients and loved ones of victims who have been harmed by medical negligence can reach out to the law firm of Schochor, Staton, Goldberg, and Cardea, P.A. To learn more, contact us today online, or by calling 410-234-1000. Our experienced attorneys serve clients in Washington D.C., Maryland, and across the country.