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Communication Gaps Cause Patient Harm and Contribute to Medical Malpractice, ASHRM 2016 Speakers Say

  • September 1, 2016

Report identifies communication failures a factor in 30 percent of all medical malpractice claims.


Boston, MA, September 1, 2016Safe care hinges on the successful gathering and transfer of information among providers, and between providers and their patients and families. Incorrect or absent information at crucial points in the diagnostic or treatment process can result in serious patient harm. A study which analyzed more than 23,000 malpractice cases (2009-2013) found communication was a factor in 30 percent of the cases.

Dana Siegal, RN, CPHRM, CPPS, Director of Patient Safety at Boston-based CRICO Strategies points to a delayed-diagnosis claims example—a patient’s test results were not relayed to her or her primary care provider. This delay in diagnosis led to the patient’s premature death.

This is just one case example that Siegal and her colleague, Gretchen Ruoff, MPH, CPHRM, Senior Program Director for Patient Safety Services, will present at the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) 2016 Annual Conference this September.

“It’s clear from our claims data that communication breakdowns drive medical error and patient harm.” says Siegal. “When information gets lost between the individuals who have it and those who need it, a cascade of events result, many leading to serious patient harm and even death. While most organizations recognize the impact of communication issues, it is critical for organizations to be able to understand where in the process of care the failures most often occur, and between whom,” continued Siegal.

Using medical malpractice claims data from more than 20 insurers nationwide, Siegal and Ruoff will present the data findings from the CRICO Strategies CBS Report, Malpractice Risks in Communication Failures. This presentation will shed light on the who, what, when, and where of miscommunication (human and electronic) and will share tangible solutions being implemented in organizations actively tackling this complex problem.

The data is mined from CRICO Strategies Comparative Benchmarking System (CBS) which currently holds more than 350,000 medical malpractice cases from more than 550 health care entities nationwide and provides a unique insight into what goes wrong, and why. Participating organizations contribute their claims to the ever-growing pool of data and are awarded with analysis that offers insight to specific risk vulnerabilities. Armed with this data, health care providers and leaders have a clear line of sight on how to change specific clinical systems or clinician behaviors and reduce those dominant risks.

The session, “Can We Talk? Communication Gaps Cause Patient Harm,” is scheduled to take place September 27, 2016 from 2:00 to 3:00 pm at ASHRM 2016 in Orlando, FL. You may also stop by the CRICO Strategies booth #1407 to speak with the presenters, Gretchen Ruoff and Dana Siegal.

About CRICO Strategies:                                                     

CRICO Strategies is a division of the Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions, Inc., a CRICO company. Through participation in our national Comparative Benchmarking System (CBS), business, clinical, and patient safety leaders can leverage their malpractice data to identify clinical risks, benchmark against peers, and engage clinical leadership. This data provides the foundation to facilitate change to make care safer for patients and clinicians. For more information, visit www.rmf.harvard.edu/Strategies