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The link between communication and surgical errors

Residents in Washington State who may need to have surgery or who have relatives in need of surgery have reason to be concerned about their safety as well as the outcomes of the operation. It can be helpful for patients and their family members to be informed about what factors might increase the risk of a medical error occurring so that they may hopefully guard against such an event.

When it comes to surgeries, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality explain that three are different types of errors that are commonly identified. There are three errors referred to as "never events" because they are so egregious that they should never happen. One of these is when a surgeon operates on the wrong patient. The other two involve the correct patient but either the wrong part of the body or the wrong operation.

Communication problems have been identified as underlying factors in these medical mistakes and may offer opportunities to reduce their risks of these things happening. Becker's Healthcare provided results of a 2015 report issued by CRICO Strategies that found more than one in four surgical errors involved some form of communication error.

Nearly half of the cases reviewed in the report involved communication breakdowns between medical professionals. Almost two-thirds involved communication breakdowns between medical staff and patients. In the first group, vascular, cardiac and general surgeries stood out as most commonly involved. Other communication problems identified were lack of sympathetic responses to patient complaints and lack of adequate informed consent for procedures.


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Miracle Pruzan & Pruzan

1000 Second Avenue
Suite 1550
Seattle, WA 98104

Toll Free: 800-689-6723
Phone: 206-388-5038
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