Medical Malpractice – Communication failures linked to 1,744 deaths in five years, US malpractice study finds

Hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide might have avoided nearly 2,000 patient deaths — and $1.7 billion in malpractice costs — if medical staff and patients communicated better, a report released Monday has found.Communication failures were a factor in 30 percent of the malpractice cases examined by CRICO Strategies, a research and analysis offshoot of the company that insures Harvard-affiliated hospitals. The cases — including 1,744 deaths — involve some horror stories that no family, and no medical professional, wants to experience.

In one instance, a nurse failed to tell a surgeon that a patient experienced abdominal pain and a drop in the level of red blood cells after the operation — alarming signs of possible internal bleeding. The patient later died of a hemorrhage.

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In another, medical office staff received calls from a diabetic patient, but did not relay the messages to the patient’s primary care provider, so the patient never got a call back. The patient later collapsed and died from diabetic ketoacidosis, which arises when the body doesn’t have enough insulin.