The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that approximately 30 percent of birth injuries are preventable. Of the many potential causes of serious birth injuries, communication between healthcare providers that form a birthing team was the most common reason cited for injury.
The bad news is, of course, that a preventable birth injury occurred because of a lack of communication or a miscommunication of important medical information. The good news is that communication errors can be remedied so that other families do not have to deal with the lifelong commitment of coping with a birth injury.
Communication errors, along with medical malpractice, hospital negligence or other mistakes during childbirth account for the lion’s share of most hospital’s risk management budgets. In the last year and a half alone, multiple birth injury verdicts over $20 million each have been awarded by juries across the country. There is obviously room for improvement in obstetrical care in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States.
New Safety Methods Help Avoid Birth Trauma
Childbirth is the #1 reason for hospital admissions throughout the United States. With 4 million babies born each year, that number really should not be surprising. The Premier Perinatal Safety Initiative (PPSI) was launched in 2008 with the goal of improving the safety of the childbirth process for both mom and baby and minimizing the number of preventable birth injuries that occur each year.
Fourteen hospitals in 12 states participated in the PPSI. The initiative lasted for five years and was projected to track the birth of over 250,000 babies. The initiative focused on reducing the most common causes of preventable birth injury:
- Missed signs of fetal distress
- A delayed Casaerean (c-section)
- Improper resuscitation technique
- Over-use or misuse of labor-inducing drugs
- Unnecessary use of forceps or vacuum extraction
Ultimately, hospitals that participated in the initiative in 2009 found a 39 percent decrease in birth injury claims per delivery, according to Premier. Problems involving lack of oxygen dropped by 25 percent, anesthesia complications dropped by 15 percent, and postpartum hemorrhage cases dropped by 5.4 percent.
Resolving Communication Issues In Childbirth That May Cause Birth Injury
It’s well-known in medical circles that communication and teamwork among healthcare professionals is an important element of patient safety. Specifically in birth injury cases, improvements in communication among members of a birthing team could reduce preventable injuries and neonatal death.
Hospitals participating in the PPSI implemented TeamSTEPPS, SBAR communication strategies and conducted team simulations to prepare for emergency situations.
- TeamStepps is intended to improve patient safety through building effective medical teams, identifying team member roles and responsibilities and addressing conflict in order to improve communication.
- SBAR (Situation Background Assessment Recommendation) is a briefing strategy used to improve nurse-physician communications and ensure that important medical information is shared across shift changes.
- Simulations that made use of an actress or mannequin as the mother and a mannequin as the baby practiced recognition of and reaction to common scenarios that may result in birth injury.
Preventable birth injuries at participating hospitals were reduced from 1.8 to 1.4 instances in every 1000 births. That equates to 15 newborns being spared from dealing with the consequences of an infant brain injury, such as cerebral palsy, or 15 families being spared from dealing with the loss of a baby during childbirth.
There is always room for learning in childbirth – learning how to properly use new devices, learning to work within a birthing team or simply learning the ins and outs of the medical profession. If you were injured because of complications during labor and delivery or your baby suffered serious, permanent injury during childbirth, you do have rights. A medical malpractice attorney in your area can help you understand what went wrong and help prevent the same mistakes from happening to another unsuspecting family.