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Improved doctor communication can reduce patient injuries

In the world of modern medicine, a patient’s care may be entrusted to team of health care professionals. Doctors, nurses, medical imaging technicians, anesthesiologists and others may be consulted. In Oregon and across the a country, a patient might be transferred to multiple facilities for specialized procedures.

Yet as an attorney that focuses on medical malpractice knows, the potential for mistakes arising from miscommunications may also increase with a team approach or arrangement involving multiple providers. If a miscommunication results in a patient not being screened or tested for a particular condition, for example, the result could be a delayed diagnosis. A miscommunication might also result in oversights regarding a patient’s medical history, perhaps leading to preventable surgical or medication complications. 

Yet there are strategies for minimizing the risk of patient injury. According to a recent study published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, improved written and verbal communication between health care providers reduced medical errors by 30 percent. Best of all, the study suggests that the improvement was achieved without substantially adding to existing clinical workflows.

The study specifically examined the effectiveness of a system of communication and training tools called I-PASS. The term is an acronym for a standardized communication approach covering the areas of illness, patient summary, action list, situational awareness, and synthesis. The approach includes standardized training and relies on computerized tools to ensure that all providers are sharing the same information.

If a miscommunication does result in patient injury, the responsible doctor should be held accountable. However, proving medical negligence under Oregon law will most likely require a qualified medical expert. In order to assemble a persuasive case and line up expert testimony, an injured patient should consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. 

Source: Medical Xpress, “Hospital medical errors reduced 30 percent with improved patient handoffs,” Nov. 5, 2014

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