Surgical errors can have costly long-term effects for patients including worsening health problems, prolonged discomfort and severe emotional distress. Perhaps more than any other form of medical malpractice, surgical errors should never happen.
Doctors that make critical surgery mistakes may operate on the wrong patient. They could also perform an incorrect procedure or operate on the wrong body part. Communication plays a critical role in protecting patients from these types of alarming errors.
Coordinating patient-provider intentions
In preparation for a surgical procedure, patients would benefit from establishing open communication with their surgeon. According to John Hopkins Medicine, patients should have a clear understanding of why their doctor recommended a specific procedure. They should seek alternative solutions and may even get a second opinion to help them make an informed decision.
Experts recommend that patients rely on surgeons who have a positive track record of performing the specific procedure they need. In preparation for surgery, patients may consider asking questions regarding the following:
- Whether or not they will need anesthesia
- Potential side effects
- Possible complications
- Expectations for recovery
Establishing communication protocols
While patients can play a big role in preventing surgical errors, communication between members of their surgical team is equally as important. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Patient Safety Network, found that breakdowns in communication were to blame for a majority of operating room errors.
Protocols for communication between members of a surgical team can increase patient safety. Some communication strategies include taking a brief time-out before beginning surgery, marking the surgical site and verbally verifying patient-provider understanding prior to the operation.