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Why communication issues can compromise emergency room care

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2024 | Hospital Errors

Emergency rooms are often the point of entry to the hospital for patients. Some people go to the hospital because their primary care physician recommends it. Not everyone can wait to see their family practice doctor. Someone involved in a car crash or who collapsed while out with friends needs immediate medical evaluation in assistance.

Emergency rooms provide 24/7 access for the public. Particularly during times of increased demand, emergency room workers may see dozens of patients in rapid succession. They employ triage practices to properly allocate resources where they are needed the most and to where they are most likely to make a difference.

Diagnostic mistakes made at emergency rooms can lead to catastrophic outcomes for patients in need of immediate care. Communication issues are the underlying cause of many emergency room errors.

There are many sources of communication errors

Digital technology theoretically improves medical care and communication. However, digital devices pose numerous logistical challenges in a healthcare setting. For example, workers may become so distracted by entering information in a patient’s digital chart that they do not listen when the patient outlines concerns and symptoms.

If a patient has already explained their concerns to one professional at the emergency room, they may not repeat the same complaints a second time. A failure to acknowledge a patient’s self-reported symptoms is one common source of communication errors in an emergency room setting.

Other times, workers may pay close attention to a patient, but then they may fail to input key details into their electronic records. Then, any other professionals interacting with that patient may not have access to all relevant information. The failure to convey certain details can make a major difference in both the diagnostic process and the speed with which emergency room professionals attend to a particular patient.

The unfortunate reality is that gaps in communication can lead to an adverse outcome for those in need of immediate medical attention. Emergency room workers may decide not to treat someone quickly because their situation doesn’t seem severe or because they overlook details that indicate they might respond to treatment. Other times, professionals might quickly reach the wrong diagnosis due to a lack of information.

Patients affected by emergency room errors may have reason to pursue medical malpractice lawsuits. Holding facilities accountable for systemic issues that compromise patient care can compensate those harmed by unprofessional medical standards at an emergency room.