Hospital errors that lead to serious preventable medical injuries occur at alarming rates. Communication between various caregivers is frequently the cause of these preventable medical errors. I have previously written about a case I tried where the patient’s injury was entirely preventable if the handoff from one doctor to the next had been improved. See https://www.mishkindlaw.com/
Unfortunately, we continue to see these types of medical errors when one doctor fails to reasonably communicate to another doctor during shift change or during weekend or evening coverage. Getting sick on the weekend when coverage is down or in the evening when the attending physician has signed out seems to be when the potential for medical errors are at their highest point. The more informed you are about what to expect the better you can protect yourself from these types of errors so that you can voice your concern when you see a possible error in the making
Handoffs from one nurse at the end of a shift to the next nurse or from one doctor to another are part of the nature of any hospital system. Making sure that patient care is not compromised at the end of an eight-hour shift simply because other doctors are taking over is critical. As more patients are seen by a growing number of different doctors, it is critical that better communication takes place so that test results are not overlooked or patient vital signs are not followed from one shift to the next to determine if there has been a significant change in the patient’s clinical condition.
We continue to see more and more fragmented aspects of medical care and the increased potential for things falling through the cracks. When one doctor orders blood work or x-rays and then leaves the hospital and fails to communicate the importance of reporting the results,this is a recipe for disaster. Hospitals that have implemented protocols for verbal handoffs with a team approach to avoid communication errors have seen preventable adverse events reduced dramatically. Having handoffs conducted in private and quiet locations so that vital information is communicated in an orderly manner is important.
The American Council for Graduate Medical Education now mandates training in handoffs for residents. Unfortunately, most hospitals do not have adequate procedures to train residents and nurses to ensure high quality handoffs. Communication within a hospital system that minimizes the potential for these types of hospital errors will result in a safer experience and less preventable injuries.