Communication: Plaintiff Challenges Hospital Policy for Communicating Discrepancies in Radiograph Interpretation by Emergency Physician and Radiologist

November 29, 2017 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Differences between an emergency physician and a radiologist's interpretation of radiographs were at issue in a case before a North Carolina court of appeals. A plaintiff's expert witness failed to establish the standard of care for the hospital's policy for communicating such discrepancies, the court concluded, affirming a lower court's directed verdict in favor of the hospital.

The patient sought care at a hospital emergency department (ED) for complaints related to sickle cell anemia. An emergency physician assessed him and ordered various tests and a chest radiograph, which he interpreted as within normal limits. Believing the patient was not seriously ill, the physician discharged him with instructions to return if his condition worsened. The patient returned the following morning and was diagnosed with "acute chest syndrome," a life-threatening complication of sickle cell anemia. He was admitted to the intensive...

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