Failing to contact a patient who needs ongoing treatment or who needs to begin treatment can be the first failure in a series that leads to the patient's illness progressing and potentially leading to death. Take, for example, cases like one involving a young woman who had heavy bleeding. An obstetrics and gynecology professional spoke with her and performed tests. She was given a blood transfusion and even had to receive an injection to slow and stop the bleeding. She was discharged.
The following day, it was discovered based on her swab that she had contracted chlamydia. It's treatable, but the patient didn't get care quickly. Instead, the nurse charged with contacting her attempted to call several times without getting through to the patient. The patient came to a prescheduled ultrasound, but the tech did not realize that her test results were abnormal, again allowing her to leave without needed antibiotics. Twenty-six days following the initial visit to the emergency room, the woman finally received antibiotics but had already developed a deep infection because of a delay in treatment.
This is just one example researchers use to explain the seriousness of not following up with patients rapidly. While this case had a positive outcome and the woman is expected to recover, failing to treat other illnesses for a month or longer could lead to fatal outcomes.
While it's not always easy to get in touch with patients, there are usually scheduled follow-up visits and mailing addresses, phone numbers, emails and even insurance carriers who could help reach out to someone in need of care. Not providing a patient with necessary antibiotics or failing to treat an illness because of failing to get in touch is unacceptable. Our site has more on this important topic.