Today, medical/hospital error is the third leading cause of death in the United States. While some sources differ, high estimates indicate that up to 440,000 deaths are caused each year by preventable medical errors. In addition to this, a staggering 86 percent of mistakes made in the healthcare industry are likely preventable. With this being said, many individuals in the healthcare industry are hopeful that emerging AI technology will be a key component of reducing these errors.
A Becker Hospital review has indicated that while Massachusetts ranks in the bottom 20 percent for medical errors, there was still a 13.61 percent increase in malpractice suit payout between 2015 and 2016, indicating that more progress needs to be made.
Poor communication in particular is a leading cause of medical errors. This includes patient-physician communication, physician-physician communication, and communication between interacting healthcare organizations. Communication is a fundamental component of medical care that needs to be improved upon, especially since some statistics indicate that 80 percent of serious medical errors are a direct result of miscommunication between caregivers.
With the increasing sophistication of technology as well as ongoing research, multiple solutions have been suggested to enhance medical communication. Here are some examples of what 2019 may have in store:
- Apple’s ResearchKit and CareKit framework will help developers create medical apps that serve to communicate with and monitor patients. One example of such an app is mPower, which uses “finger tapping and gait analysis to study patients suffering with Parkinson’s disease.”
- Mayo Clinic and other healthcare centers are making it possible to schedule appointments with medical providers on apps and virtually receive test results on a secure server. Doctors and patients can also communicate through secure networks on related apps.
- Involving patients in hospital rounds, which is where doctors determine appropriate treatment, or doing rounds at the bedside and involving the patient and families in the process, can drastically reduce communication-related medical errors by up to 38 percent.
Hopefully, these and other solutions will lead to significant improvements in enhancing healthcare communication. In the meantime, we will have to rely on medical professionals being competent and proactive in preventing these life-threatening miscommunications from happening.
A partner at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP in Boston, J. Tucker Merrigan represents individual clients throughout all of Massachusetts and the United States—concentrating his practice on cases that involve personal injury, defective medical devices, dangerous drugs, wrongful death, premises liability, products liability, medical malpractice, and insurance law. Known for strong client relationships and positive results, Merrigan has been named a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Attorney by National Trial Lawyers from 2015-2018 and named Super Lawyer Rising Star for 2018.