As with any strong relationship, communication is important. In any situation where two or more individuals are working together to meet a common goal – each contributing their own unique skills and efforts – communication must be present. This is no difference in a hospital setting. With medical error recently recognized as the third leading cause of death in the United States, it’s important now more than ever to understand what can be done to alleviate the miscommunication and bridge the gap. What causes poor communication among hospital staff and how is it contributing to medical malpractice?
The Existence of Hierarchies
Similar to other occupations, there can sometimes be a lack of communication within a vertical power structure. While this does not necessarily mean that the existence of a hierarchy is a negative thing, it could lead to more room for poor communication.
It’s possible that a nurse will feel as though the question he or she has is insignificant or would have an obvious answer, making them hesitant to ask. This, of course, can lead to huge errors.
Understanding the situation and needs of a patient is the most important factor in healthcare, and when that suffers due to miscommunication or lack thereof, serious problems can arise.
Written Orders Vs. Direct Verbal Orders
In some cases, poor communication can be found in that a physician may give written orders on a patient’s chart but might not relay those order to the nurse verbally. While a physician might write very clear, detailed instructions for a nurse within a patient’s file, the nurse may not read it right away. It’s also possible the nurse would assume the physician would give direct verbal instructions if something important needed to be done.
In addition to poor communication or even a complete failure of communication, delayed communication can also have an incredibly negative impact on a patient’s well being. Information is time-sensitive in a hospital setting when lives are on the line. Receiving a message in an untimely manner can lead to a whole host of issues.
In some situations, a patient might be released from the hospital before all necessary tests have been run. Effective communication is necessary in order to prevent premature discharge or other medical errors.
According to medical malpractice attorneys, if “one or more health care providers fail to act in accordance with accepted medical practices” it’s possible that a medical malpractice claim could have merit.
Improving communication among hospital staff could make a significant change in reducing the number of medical malpractice reports.