Communication failures present big legal risk
September 01, 2005
A 55-year-old man with cough and mild fever presented to his internist in Colorado for evaluation on a Thursday afternoon. The doctor sent the patient across the street to the hospital for a chest x-ray. Radiographs were obtained but set aside to be matched with old films. They were not read by the radiologist until Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the written report was not delivered to the referring doctor until the following Tuesday. The patient had died the night before of Legionella pneumophila. When asked why he hadn't called the results to the doctor, the radiologist replied that he had tried but couldn't get through. The case was settled for an undisclosed sum, with settlements paid by the internist, the radiologist, and the local hospital.