Wrong patient phone numbers causing safety problems for ER docs

Emergency room doctors across the country say the problem of wrong patient phone numbers is getting worse, at a potential cost to patient safety. As a result, some hospitals are turning to people-finders, registered letters and law enforcement to deliver diagnoses, MSNBC reports.

In a typical situation, an ER patient seems well enough to leave and is discharged, but when test results come back, sometimes a day or two later, doctors realize there is a potential health issue. There are a number of reasons why a patient's number might be wrong, including clerical error, an expired cell phone contract, or deliberate misinformation from patients fearing large bills or immigration status checks.

ER doctors told MSNBC they run into problems anywhere from once or twice a month to once or twice a week. Most agree it is a dangerous trend.

"Even if it's not the provider's fault, it's really a failure to perform to the standard of care," said Michael Carius, MD, chairman of the emergency department at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn.

For more information:
- read this MSNBC story