Failure to Contact Patient About Cardiologist’s Report of Heart Condition
A middle-aged man presented to a hospital emergency department (ED) with complaints of chest pain. An EKG was performed, which the ED doctor interpreted as within normal limits, and he was sent home with medication for heartburn. The hospital in question, like many others, had a process whereby a cardiologist (heart doctor specialist) would later review all EKGs performed in the ED, to make sure they were read correctly in the ED. A couple of days after the ER visit, the hospital’s cardiologist reviewed the same EKG strip and diagnosed heart ischemia (lack of blood flow) likely due to blockage in one or more heart arteries. The cardiologist’s report, however, got lost in the paperwork of the hospital, with the result that no one ever called the man to tell him of the correct EKG reading, that he was at major risk of a heart attack, and that he should go to a heart doctor right away. The man died weeks later from a heart attack while never knowing that he was at risk for one. Mark Clore was able to obtain a confidential settlement for the man’s family.
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