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Communication and Its Effect On Patient Safety

Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Communication and Its Effect On Patient Safety

Effective communication is crucial among healthcare professionals and teams. An overwhelming majority of medical malpractice cases arise either due to inadequate communication among healthcare providers or insufficient documentation of such communication.

The key component to promoting patient safety and improved quality of care begins with communication. Without this connection, the quality of patient care diminishes quickly.  Patient care often requires multiple specialists working with the best technology available. However,   clinical expertise is of no use to the healthcare team when the information is not communicated to other providers. Patient safety begins to suffer when consultants do not have their findings and opinions are not discussed with the attending physician or the “captain of the ship.”  Clear communication is even more important with the emerging use of hospitalists in most facilities.  Likewise, nursing needs to provide valuable input as to patient changes- in- status to the physicians. The only way to achieve continuity of care for each patient is through effective communication within the entire healthcare team.

Cases abound where there are multiple consultants involved in the care of a patient, yet none of the providers have a “gathering of the minds” to discuss the patient’s condition. Each and every provider visits with the patient, performs an exam and orders tests to make a diagnosis or complete an assessment.  A detailed note in the chart may be completed, but rarely does an actual 1:1 communication or collaborative discussion with the attending actually take place.  Lawsuits are often filed years later, when all the critical lab values, test results or actual thought process of the providers becomes known.  At this point, provider interaction can turn into a finger pointing exercise, with one provider blaming another or nursing taking the blame for not alerting the physician to critical changes in the patient’s condition.  Furthermore, there is often a lack of communication with the patient or patient’s family and what they may or may not understand.

Improving communication among the healthcare team will promote patient safety and improve patient outcomes. It can save millions of dollars for those providers and institutions that have previously been forced to pay settlements or verdicts when documentation of communication is non-existent.   Most of all, effective communication promotes patient safety and achieves improved quality of care for all patients under your care.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.