When reviewing case histories of patients who were injured by medical errors, one of the most common factors you will see is a failure of communication. According to one study, communication problems were behind as many as 59% of all reported medical error injuries.
Many of these events are the result of medical personnel failing to communicate effectively with each other. For instance, a shift might end at a hospital and the night crew will fail to alert the morning crew that a patient has already had their medication; the morning crew then gives the patient an unnecessary second dose, leading to injury.
Many other injuries are due to a failure of communication with the patient. This problem can come in many forms, but one common type involves a patient who has limited English skills.
A recent report examined the issue of communication between English-speaking medical professionals and patients who have limited English proficiency. It noted that hospitals and clinics have made big efforts in recent years to prevent medical errors, but they have done little to address the potential for injury that arises when patients and medical professionals don’t speak the same language.
Given that there are some 25 million people in America who have limited proficiency in English, the language barrier can present a potentially serious threat to public health.
Researchers noted that many hospitals and clinics rely on an English-speaking relative or friend of the patient to facilitate communication with patients who have limited English skills. Unfortunately, they often fail to assess an informal interpreter’s ability to effectively translate medical information. In other cases, medical personnel are overconfident in their own limited skills with the patient’s own first language, leading to failures in communication with the patient.
Whatever language a patient speaks, a medical professional has a duty to provide that patient with care that is up to professional standards. Whether the cause is communication failure or something else, when the professional breaches that duty, the patient can be badly injured. When a patient is injured due to this type of breach of duty, they may consider making a medical malpractice claim. This type of legal action can help them recover compensation for the damages they suffered as a result of the injury, including medical expenses, pain and suffering and more.
The injured and their families can speak to an experienced attorney to learn more about their options.