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Can miscommunication lead to medical mistakes?

As in any industry in the United States, communication is critical. Yet, when peoples’ lives are at stake, communication takes on even more importance. When you go to see a medical professional, you may be given a diagnosis, require a surgical procedure, need to have labs taken or need a prescription for medication to treat your condition. Your medical information may be traveling between physicians, surgeons, nurses, medical assistants, pharmacists and other medical professionals. During each transfer, there is room for error, and a simple misinterpretation or miscommunication can lead to an error that could leave you significantly harmed or cause death.

A study in the Journal of Patient Safety found that between 210,000 and 440,000 people die every year in America as a result of a preventable medical mistake. This number has such a wide range because many medical errors go unreported or are covered up in an attempt to not receive repercussion that may follow a medical error. Poor communication may be one of the leading causes of medical errors. Miscommunication in the medical industry may be involved in a number of situations. Some of these include the following:

  •          Surgeon performing a procedure on the wrong patient
  •          Medical assistant calling in a prescription for the wrong medication
  •          Pharmacist overlooking a deadly medication allergy
  •          Physician miscommunicating a patients’ history to a colleague
  •          Physician misdiagnosing a condition

Any of these mistakes may be life threatening and could lead to a major medical malpractice case. Many medical institutions have put communication guidelines in place to minimize these deadly errors.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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