Study ties communication errors to surgical ‘never events’

Surgical Team - Accident Claims in Connecticut
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According to a new study, poor communication among surgical teams may be a common cause of the inexcusable surgical mistakes known as “never events.”

Harmful medical errors are a threat that people in Danbury face every time they seek medical attention or treatment. Alarmingly, between 2008 and 2012, over 3,000 people in Massachusetts suffered severe enough mistakes and associated injuries to justify legal claims. Some of these injuries might have occurred under unavoidable or extenuating circumstances. Sadly, though, many others may have involved mistakes that never excusably should have happened.

So-called “never events,” such as operations on the wrong patient, are more common than many people believe. According to Scientific American, one 2012 study found that such errors happen more than 4,000 times per year in the U.S. In many cases, these mistakes result in catastrophic personal injuries or even death. Troublingly, recent research shows that such errors remain fairly common and often involve easily preventable factors.

About the study

According to Fox News, researchers reviewed more than 138 studies published between 2004 and 2014 that focused on surgical errors. Each of these studies explored at least one of the three following types of never events:

  • Retained objects, or objects that are left behind in patients after surgery
  • Wrong-site surgeries, in which surgeons operate on the wrong body part
  • Surgical fires, or fires that break out during surgical operations

The researchers found that some of these errors still happen on an alarmingly frequent basis. For instance, in one surgical procedure out of 10,000, doctors leave objects behind in patients. The researchers also found that many complex variables typically contribute to these serious surgical errors. One common risk factor that the researchers identified was poor communication amongst surgical teams.

Communication breakdowns

The researchers found that these communication issues took various forms. Sometimes, staff members misunderstood each other or did not receive all of the information that should have been available. In other cases, members of the surgical staff failed to share their concerns or give credence to the worries of their teammates.

The researchers suggested a few potential solutions, besides better communication, that could help address the ongoing issue of never events. Doctors and healthcare organizations could track these events more effectively and use that data to develop strategies for preventing similar future mistakes. Additionally, the same groups could begin tracking and analyzing incidents that nearly escalated into never events. Unfortunately, these initiatives may not offer immediate benefits for people receiving medical treatment now.

Legal redress

The victims of never events and other unnecessary medical mistakes may be entitled to compensation for their medical expenses, lingering disablement and other losses. However, showing that certain errors should reasonably have been prevented is often a challenging task. Consequently, victims of harmful medical mistakes should strongly consider speaking to an attorney about the possibility of seeking compensation.

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