Coordinating the patient care may actually make the difference between life and death. The inovolvement of more than one physicians in the treatment of a patient means that some doctors might have important information that needs to be relayed to the patient as well as the other physicians for appropriate follow up. Without it the patient could very well go on not receiving appropriate and essential treatment. Many people think that the doctor will contact them in case there are any adverse findings from tests ordered by the doctor.
Generally, when people do not receive a follow up communication from a doctor many view that as an indication that everthing is fine and that there is no need for them to follow up with the doctor. It becomes more problematic, however, if the one doctor who is on the right track ends up not communicating his or her suspicions and the other physicians are not catching the signs and not ordering the proper tests.
Consider the following reported lawsuit. Several physicians had a chance to detect the male patients prostate cancer before it spread The man first saw his primary care physician, a general practitioner, with complaints of urinary problems at 56 years old age. The family doctor thought that the patient’s problems were not a result of cancer. Thus, the family doctor did not order any diagnostic testing, like a biopsy and did not refer the patient to a urologist.
Ten months afterwards the individual consulted with a urologist who did a physical examination on the prostate gland and did a PSA blood test. The individual then learned that the urologist was not approved by his insurance and he went to a different urologist who was approved.
The PSA test ordered by the first urologist came back and that urologist advised a biopsy. Unfortunately, that recommendation apparently did not get related to the PCP or the urologist approved by the insurance company. The approved urologist did not order a PSA blood test. The approved urologist also did a physical examination of the prostate but found no abnormalities and concluded that the patient did not have cancer.
It was an additional 2 years before the patients prostate cancer was finally detected. By that point, the cancer had spread outside the prostate and had metastasized. Had the cancer been detected at the time the patient initially complained of urinary problems, when he saw the first urologist, or even when the second urologist failed to find any abnormalities with his prostate and failed to order a PSA test, it would have still been contained in the prostate and, with treatment, the patient could have had approximately 97% prospect of surviving the cancer. Since the cancer was already advanced , however, the patient was likely to die from the cancer in under five years. The law firm that handled this matter published that they were able to achieve a settlement during jury selection at trial for $2,500,000 on behalf of the patient.
As the case described above illustrates, having multiple doctors for the same issue may lead to multiple errors. The first mistake was not following the screening guidelines. This was a mistake committed by both the primary care physician and the second urologist. The other error was one in communication. This happened when there was a miscommunication of the findings, suspicions, and recommendations of the urologist who was not approved by the insurance company and the other doctors.
If the patient had been able to keep seeing the first urologist he would have known that cancer was a possibility and that a follow up biopsy was recommended. If the other physicians would have agreed with that recommendation or would have passed this information to the patient if they had received it is unknown but then the error would have been entirely theirs.