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In home health care, miscommunications can result in readmission

The late actor Paul Newman had a number of iconic roles, but perhaps none more memorable than charming bad boy Cool Hand Luke. Perhaps no line summed up the character better than his taunting of authority when he said at the film’s end, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

That failure can be critical in many areas of life, a recent study makes clear. When there are gaps in communication between doctors and home health care providers, the result is often a decline in a senior’s health and readmission to a hospital.

As many New York home health care providers know full well, a lack of clarity or precision in doctors’ communications can be detrimental to a patient’s health in several key areas, including the following:

  • Disparities in patient medication lists
  • Misunderstanding of who is responsible for writing patient care orders
  • Obtaining hospital records

And according to the study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, care can also be disrupted when clinicians resist accepting accountability.

Researchers conducted six focus groups of home health care nurses from six different Colorado agencies. Nurses talked about their experiences, with some expressing frustration with the availability of doctors.

“I actually got in trouble for contacting the hospital,” said one nurse. She said she got into trouble “trying to find out, get more information, trying to track a doctor down.”

Other nurses said even when they did track a primary care physician down, they did not get the information needed because of failures to communicate between hospitals and doctors.

Unfortunately, medical errors — including mistakes with medications — can result from the failures to communicate.

In licensing matters or in disputes over standard of care, Medicare or Medicaid billing, kickbacks or compliance issues, home health agency administrators and employees can speak with an experienced New York City attorney at Rivas Goldstein, LLP.