One common source of medical malpractice lawsuits is when a patient undergoes testing but the results are not reported to the patient or acted upon by the ordering physician. Sadly, this occurs with some frequency in busy medical practices and hospitals. There are a number of scenarios that increase the likelihood of negligent laboratory practices resulting in serious personal injury or wrongful death.
The Radiology Department
In medicine, orders are made by physicians or certified nurse practitioners (CNPs). If the order is for a radiology study, such as CT scan, MRI or ultrasound, the nursing staff will alert the radiology department. If the patient is outpatient, the imaging study will be scheduled. If the patient is inpatient, the patient will be transferred to the radiology suite for the study. Other orders include requests for consults, requests for specific types of monitoring — either in terms of frequent assessments or monitoring with dedicated equipment, such as telemetry or pulse oximetry. Description for medication is another order that is given to a nurse who then administers the medication. All doctors’ orders are prescribed with purpose. The purpose is to continue an investigation into the patient’s condition so that an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan can be prepared.
Patients can suffer harm when a doctor’s order is not carried out or when the results are not reported back to the physician on a timely basis. Laboratory tests, such as blood work, blood cultures, and urinalysis, are initiated by doctors’ orders. The nurse will obtain the specimen for evaluation and then transport it to a laboratory. Laboratory technicians will complete the test and report results to the ordering physician. In the hospital, results will be reported to the nursing staff who are then required to report it to the physician. For outpatient testing, the results will be reported to the doctor’s office where office staff are required to report abnormal results to the physician.
Frequently, abnormal lab results fall through the cracks. The safest practice is for the laboratory to send the usual official report that identifies abnormal test results, but also to orally report critical abnormal results directly to the physician. In this way, the patient’s problems can be addressed on a timely basis.
When Does Medical Malpractice Occur?
Medical malpractice occurs when a radiologist or laboratory fails to properly alert the ordering physician to critical abnormal lab results. A case for medical negligence might also arise when the results are reported in an accurate and timely manner, but the ordering physician fails to take action upon the critical abnormal results. For example, failure to alert a patient to a positive blood culture may allow an infection to progress from an early treatable stage to full-blown sepsis, septic shock, multiorgan failure, and even death. Likewise, a positive biopsy showing malignant cancer cells requires immediate action. Failure to act upon a positive biopsy may result in cancer spreading from an early treatable stage with a good survival rate to a late, terminal stage where the chance of survival is grim.
Contact an Attorney
If you or a loved one have suffered severe personal injury or wrongful death as a result of a lab failing to timely or accurately report abnormal test results to a physician, or a hospital, doctor, or nurse and failed to act upon abnormal test results in a timely manner, you should contact an experienced lawyer, like an Ohio medical negligence lawyer from Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co, L.P.A., as soon as possible. Time limits may apply. Most medical negligence law firms will perform an investigation at no charge to the client in order to determine whether a meritorious claim exists.