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Medical Malpractice

Failure to Provide Follow-Up Care May Be Grounds for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

November 05, 2021

Providing inadequate aftercare or failing to provide follow-up care can be a cause of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Medical facilities and professionals have a duty to follow up with patients after treatment and provide aftercare. Lack of appropriate follow-up care could result in mild ongoing symptoms, worsening of medical conditions, and even death.

Failure to Follow Up as Medical Malpractice

Follow-up care is an essential element of good medical care. After surgical procedures, administration of new medications, or provision of a certain type of treatment, the subsequent aftercare helps determine whether the treatment has harmed or helped a patient and if he or she has started healing properly.

The duty of care extends beyond the initial treatment or appointment. When the duty is breached, it can cause considerable damages to patients and their families. When there is a breach of duty in the form of failing to follow up and a patient suffers harm, the patient or surviving family can file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

How Failure to Provide Aftercare May Occur

There are many ways aftercare can be incomplete or delayed, giving a person grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Failure to Provide Adequate Aftercare Instructions

When medical professionals do not communicate aftercare instructions or manage treatment and medication instructions adequately, that can be considered negligent behavior. The failure to follow up could occur because of a communication breakdown between the medical office or doctor and a patient. A medical professional may fail to communicate the urgency of medications, tests, and other medical advice.

Doctors could be considered negligent if they failed to follow up with patients, even if the patients ignored medical advice or missed an appointment. The patient may have declined or ignored a treatment recommendation because of not being adequately educated about the risks of his or her decision.

For instance, in one case, a doctor recommended that a patient who had been admitted to the hospital because of chest pains undergo cardiac catheterization. The patient was allowed to go home to consider the treatment and come back at a later date. The patient died of a heart attack at home. The patient’s family won their case against the doctor due to the doctor not telling them how critical it was for the patient to have the cardiac catheterization procedure.

Failure to Follow Up With Patients Regarding Test Results

Failure to follow up on test results, document a person’s condition accurately, or keep adequate records can lead to incomplete aftercare. Patients can suffer serious physical and emotional harm as a result.

For example, not following up on abnormal test results can allow a health issue to progress to a terminal illness. This is what happened in one medical malpractice case, in which the family of a man who died of colon cancer was awarded nearly $596,000. The doctor failed to follow up on the man’s inexplicable case of anemia.

In a different case, a woman had X-rays taken while staying at a hospital because of congestive heart failure. According to the radiologist’s findings, there was a mass in the woman’s lung. The radiologist recommended that the woman have follow-up scans and sent the recommendation to her physician.

The physician failed to follow up, and the woman was subsequently diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, which has a lower survival rate than the stage 1 cancer she would have been diagnosed with if the physician had followed up with the recommended scans. The woman was awarded $500,000.

Inadequate Postoperative Care

Follow-up care is crucial for patients who have undergone a surgical procedure. They are vulnerable to serious health problems like infections after surgery. As a result, they need to get the appropriate medication at the right times, have surgical dressings changed at the correct intervals, have vital signs checked regularly, and monitoring and treatments provided properly.

If a patient does not receive proper follow-up care after surgery, the surgical wounds can become infected. The infection can spread throughout the person’s body and develop into sepsis. A patient can also go into shock, which may result in organ failure and death without proper treatment.

The risk of experiencing blood clots may also be higher after surgery. A blood clot that travels to the lung can be fatal. Several other postoperative complications, which medical professionals need to watch out for, can occur, such as a bladder failing to drain, an allergic reaction to anesthesia, and excessive bleeding. Patients who suffer complications because of inadequate follow-up care may have grounds for medical malpractice claims.

Failing to provide patients with the appropriate follow-up care is dangerous to their long-term health. When the negligence of a medical facility or professional makes a patient’s health worse or creates conditions that require more medical treatment, then that patient can file a medical malpractice lawsuit with Chicago medical malpractice lawyers. Patients may be able to file a lawsuit even when they’ve previously signed a waiver.

About The Author

Photo of Jeffrey  Goldberg
Attorney Jeffrey M. Goldberg has spent his entire professional career handling cases involving birth injury, medical malpractice, product liability and related accidents.