Better communication means less medical malpractice

The research appears to be very simple: when doctors don’t listen to their patient, they also misdiagnose symptoms and illnesses. Also, miscommunications to patients can lead to a variety of complications as well: failure to follow directions, medical complications and medication errors.

Even hospitals recognize the need for better communication between doctors and patients (though not completely out of the goodness of their heart). If the patients are able to communicate with each other, the patient is less likely to sue the doctor – even if a medical mistake occurs.

For whatever the reason for why an emphasis for better doctor and patient communication exists, such communication result in a reduction of medical errors. When a medical error does occur, costs will be incurred by everyone involved.

A 2009 study demonstrated that there is a 19 percent higher likelihood that patients will not follow doctor’s orders when poor communication exits. Also, when poor communication exists, there are 40 percent more medical malpractice lawsuits brought by patients and their attorneys against doctors and hospitals. For example, one surgeon was sued concerning a reported surgical mistake that resulted in the amputation of a leg – this thought to have happened in part because the doctor did not allow the patient to ask questions during an informed consent process.

Though we sometimes hear reports of too many medical malpractice cases occurring, the threat of such cases being brought has forced hospitals to train physicians to communicate better with patients. This in turn has resulted in less medical malpractice cases occurring.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “The Talking Cure for Health Care,” by Laura Landro, April 8, 2013