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Listening may be effective in preventing medical errors

We have written a number of times about how physicians and medical staff have a duty to use reasonable care while tending to patients they are assigned to. Indeed, the main impetus behind medical malpractice cases is the failure to use such care (i.e. acting as a physician with similar experience would in a given situation), but often malpractice cases may start even before this.

According to a recent Consumer Reports study, the lack of respect a patient may receive from hospital staff may lead to medical errors. For instance, certain pains and complaints of discomfort may be dismissed as a patient simply whining; or a doctor may not carefully listen to a patient’s concerns when he or she speaks up.

Among their many findings, researchers learned that patients who believed that they rarely received respect were more than twice as likely to experience a “preventable medical error” compared to those who received respect. Further, a quarter of the patients surveyed indicated that they were not always treated as adults with regard to their own care and a third of those surveyed said that medical personnel did not listen to their wishes without interrupting.

In light of new technologies that are geared towards limiting errors, and new protocols designed to make information sharing easier, it may be that listening may be the most effective way to limit medical errors. With such errors being the third leading cause of death in the U.S. (behind heart disease and cancer), it should behoove medical personnel to keep a listening ear.

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