Poor Communication a Major Reason for Diagnostic Errors

Posted on November 02, 2015 by Shapiro Law Group


Diagnostic errors can cause permanent and sometimes fatal injuries to patients. In previous blogs, we have discussed patients being misdiagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, but there are many other stories of how these medical errors affect patients.

One recent example made headlines around the world, when a Dallas hospital patient returning from Africa was discharged with antibiotics after showing symptoms of influenza. It turns out the patient had Ebola, one of the most virulent diseases in human history. The patient died in a Dallas hospital, but not before sparking a nationwide panic.

These mistakes are avoidable, but only if hospital staff communicate effectively among each other and with patients.

What Are My Chances of Receiving A Diagnostic Error?

Diagnostic errors are the most common kind of medical mistake in the country. A recent Journal of the American Medical Association study found diagnostic errors affect 10 to 20 percent of the patients. How can this widespread public safety hazard be resolved so patients are no longer at risk?

According to a study conducted by the University of California San Francisco, improving communication within hospitals resulted in a reduction of diagnostic errors by 30 percent. Many hospitals rely on electronic medical records, but communication between patients and other hospital departments is still crucial. Electronic medical records are not perfect and can overwhelm hospital staff, requiring them to manage too many alerts and input excessive amounts of information.

A recent report called “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care” calls for patients to have a more critical role in examining their medical files to check for errors, and to use as a resource for conversing with health care providers. Perhaps future cases of diagnostic errors can be avoided with an overhaul in how hospital staff and patients communicate.

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