Communication errors cause injuries, hide injuries

It is no surprise that communication errors are one of the main causes of medical malpractice. A doctor or nurse’s failure to properly read a patient’s medical record, poorly written prescriptions, incorrect information exchanged between healthcare professionals and patients – these can all lead to serious medical errors.

A new research study published in Health Affairs shows the extent of the problem. According to that study, an alarming number of doctors fail to disclose vital information to their patients and some will even lie out of fear of medical malpractice cases. Thus, communication errors do not just cause medical malpractice; they also hide it.

According to the survey of nearly 2,000 U.S. physicians, 34 percent of doctors do not believe they should always reveal serious medical mistakes to their patients. Furthermore, 20 percent of doctors said they did not disclose a mistake they made.

Other alarming statistics include:

  • More than 10 percent of doctors admit to telling a patient a lie in the previous year.
  • Forty percent of doctors do not feel they need to tell their patients about their financial connections with drug companies.
  • Fifty-five percent said they have been overly positive when speaking about a patient’s prognosis, sometimes hiding the nature of a patient’s injury.

We rely on our medical doctors to take care of us, and to tell us the truth. While it is not necessarily alarming that doctors act unrealistically optimistic when giving a prognosis, doctors should not be hiding medical mistakes. Fear of facing a medical malpractice lawsuit is no excuse, especially when malpractice has caused an injury or death.

What can you do to help uncover the truth? When you visit the doctor, make sure to be clear to the physician if you want to be a part of the decision-making process. Tell your doctor to be honest with you, and educate yourself about your symptoms so that you can ask the right questions. In fact, it can help to write down the questions you want to ask before the appointment. And remember: You have a voice. Do not be afraid to speak up.

Finally, if you believe you have been injured as the result of medical malpractice, do not hesitate to contact an experienced med mal lawyer.

Source: ABC News, “Your Doctor May Be Keeping Secrets,” Prevention, Apr. 8, 2012.