Wrongful death expert witness Barry Gustin, MD, MPH, FAAEP, writes on avoiding medical malpractice when patients are handed off to other physicians:
When patients are transferred from one doctor to another, or from an outpatient setting to a hospital or nursing home, there is an increased chance of a serious mishap that can lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit. Who is ultimately found liable for fumbling the patient handoff may be up to a jury to decide years after the event. Plaintiffs’ attorneys generally will sue everyone involved in the patients’ care – at least initially — regardless of their degree of accountability, until the facts are clear.
Problems with handoff communication are listed as one of the root causes in up to 70% of adverse sentinel events compiled by the Joint Commission. The potential for something to go wrong — needed follow-up care that slips through the cracks or vital information that isn’t communicated in a timely fashion — can have life or death impact for patients. It’s also a leading driver of malpractice lawsuits against health professionals.