A recent Joint Commission study to determine what proportion of medical malpractice claims involve communication failure, identified “miscommunication” as a leading cause of sentinel events, the most serious adverse events.
The study found that communication failures were involved in a significant proportion of medical malpractice claims:
- The most common type of communication failure was between providers and patients, followed by providers and other providers.
- The majority of communication failures occurred in outpatient settings, such as offices or clinics.
- The most common type of miscommunication was related to diagnosis, followed by treatment options and prognosis.
- The study also found that communication failures were associated with significant costs, including medical expenses, lost productivity, and legal fees.
Communication failures are a significant contributing cause of malpractice claims and impose a substantial financial burden on the healthcare system. Interventions to improve transmission of critical patient information have the potential to substantially reduce malpractice expenditures.