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Richmond Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Handling Communication Error Claims

Legal help when miscommunication leads to medical mistakes and injuries in Virginia

Communication among healthcare providers is crucial to safe medical care. As the practice of medicine has become more and more focused, patients often have several specialists involved in their care. In order for “the right hand to know what the left hand is doing” these different specialists absolutely must share information with one another. When there is a breakdown in communication, preventable errors can occur and patients can suffer.  If you or a loved one has been victimized by poor medical care, the experienced attorneys at Phelan Petty can help.

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Communication errors are a leading cause of medical malpractice

A groundbreaking study by CRICO, a research group serving the Harvard medical community, revealed that nearly one-third of medical malpractice claims involve communication errors. Some of these involved communication breakdowns between medical providers, and some involved poor communication between medical provider and patient. The study also found:

  • The highest rates of provider-provider miscommunication occurred with cardiac, vascular and general surgeries
  • The highest rates of provider-patient miscommunication occurred with plastic, urology, orthopedic and neurosurgery
  • As a result of miscommunications, 44% of patients suffered severe injuries, including death

“Communication difficulties are not isolated to providers lacking ‘people skills’ or patient with language or comprehension deficits,” said Heather Riah, assistant vice president of CRICO Strategies. “Every mode and system by which patients and caregivers share health-related information is vulnerable to failure.”

Types of communication errors in medical settings

The statistics above underscore the need for proper communication between medical professionals in the health care process. When your medical team makes errors in communication, they may be setting the stage for diagnostic errors, misdiagnosis, and causing life-threatening injuries to their patients. Some of the common communication mistakes that can result in medical malpractice include:

  • Failing to properly fill out a patient’s chart
  • Failing to update Electronic Health Records (EHR)
  • Failing to take a proper and/or accurate medical history
  • Failing to read all applicable charts and histories
  • Failing to notify patients and/or other medical personnel of test results
  • Failing to obtain informed consent
  • Failing to follow-up with the patient
  • Failing to use a translator to overcome a language barrier
  • Failing to communicate directly with other medical personnel
  • Failing to provide accurate discharge information

Avoiding medical communication errors

As a patient or the caregiver of a loved one, you can take a few steps to mitigate the risk of communication mistakes in your medical treatment. Keep some of the following recommendations in mind when receiving medical treatment, no matter how minor:

  • Monitor your medical records. Many doctors and health care systems keep patients’ medical histories and information online, making it easily accessible. If you do not have access to your records online, you have the legal right to request a paper copy of your medical records.
  • Bring an advocate. If you are having a surgical procedure, bring a trusted family member or friend to your pre-operation appointments and to the hospital or medical center the day of your procedure. Ensure you understand the Virginia Patients’ Bill of Rights.
  • Do your research. Before undergoing any treatment or procedure, you can find out if your doctor has been disciplined or paid out any malpractice claims by searching the Virginia Board of Medicine database.
  • Trust your instincts. Research is important, but you should make your own decision about your doctor and their communication skills. Ask questions and, if you are concerned, seek out another qualified doctor or medical professional.

Compensation for Richmond medical malpractice claims

The medical negligence lawyers at Phelan Petty help patients injured by poor communication in hospitals and other medical settings. We hold doctors, nurses, surgeons and medical staff accountable, seeking compensation for your losses, including:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages and future earning potential
  • Pain and suffering

Because the state of Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations on malpractice claims, it is crucial you contact our offices as soon as possible.

Virginia medical malpractice attorneys

Phelan Petty represents medical malpractice clients in Richmond and throughout Virginia. To setup a free case review, call us today at 804.980.7100 or use our contact form to leave us a message.

To get a free, no-risk assessment of your case from an experienced Virginia injury attorney, please contact us right away.