Doctors and patients in a meeting looking at medical images on a screen

Minimizing clinical errors through better communication

Minimizing clinical errors through better communication

A study by The Doctors Company has revealed that 10% of malpractice claims against plastic surgeons are caused by ineffective communication.

The company analyzed approximately 1,400 claims against plastic surgeons over a 9 year period and found that communication between patient or family and provider was the joint third highest factor contributing to patient injury; behind technical performance (poor technique or performing a procedure on an incorrect body part), and patient factors (issues caused by patients failing to manage their own recovery such as keeping up with follow-up appointments or treatment plans).

Top factors that contributed to patient injury

Source: Figure 5, Plastic Surgery Closed Claims Study

Communication was identified as an issue in several areas, including physicians providing inadequate discharge instructions, which resulted in patients being less likely to comply with self care recommendations following surgery, and also proved to be an issue where conflicts had occured – for example, when the physician was unsympathetic to the patient’s concerns. But the issues go much deeper than that, the report also provides a number of case examples that highlight how poor communication can at worst, threaten lives.

Once such case explains how a surgeon failed to notify a patient of abnormalities identified in multiple CT scans and chest x-rays undertaken over a 5 year period. Several years later the issues were identified by another surgeon, and, subsequently, the patient filed a claim against the original surgeon, who was also criticized for failing to disclose what could have been a major health problem.

Communication is key

When it comes to healthcare, good communication is critical. This is true not just for ensuring a healthy physician to patient relationship, but also for fostering better collaboration between care teams and improving organizational efficiencies, which in turn, leads to improved performance and fewer clinical errors.

Several years ago, The Joint Commission identified miscommunication as the root cause of 80% of all medical mistakes, which is a startling statistic considering that these mistakes were for the most part avoidable.

Given the high-pressure nature of working in a medical environment and the often disjointed nature of medical communications more generally, achieving clear two-way communication is easier said than done. However, through educating staff and investing in the right tools, standards can be improved significantly.

How DocbookMD helps improve clinical communication

DocbookMD’s secure mobile messaging platform empowers medical professionals to communicate more effectively with colleagues, allowing them to spend more quality time with patients.  Harnessed by a plethora of healthcare providers across the country, including physician practices, hospitals, clinics, health plans and home health agencies, DocbookMD offers a host of features that accelerate workflows and allow users to focus on the job at hand; real-time alerts and read receipts ensure messages don’t get missed, while stringent security controls ensure protected health information (PHI) remains protected at all times. And all of this within the convenience of a mobile or desktop app.

To find out more about how DocbookMD can improve communication within your healthcare organization, or to sign up for a free trial, visit or contact us for further information.