Many Texans are surprised to learn that hospitals are generally not responsible for the mistakes and negligence of physicians. Despite billboards and advertisements suggesting otherwise, physicians are not typically employees of hospitals. The corporate practice of medicine doctrine prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine, which is the province of physicians. However, the theoretical versus actual implementation of this doctrine can be robustly debated.
When investigating potential cases of medical negligence involving hospital care, we closely examine the care provided by hospital employees. Under the legal doctrine of vicarious liability, hospitals can be held responsible for the mistakes or negligence of their employees, including personnel such as nurses, laboratory technicians, and radiology technicians.
Laboratory technicians play an essential role in hospital care. It would be highly unusual for any patient to receive emergency room treatment or hospital admission without at least one laboratory sample being taken and analyzed.Hospital laboratories establish reference values for every test, including upper and lower limits, as well as critically high and critically low values. According to the healthcare accrediting agency The Joint Commission, a critical test result is one that requires immediate communication of results, regardless of whether it is normal, significantly abnormal, or critical. A critical value is a test result that significantly exceeds the normal range and may represent life-threatening values.
In most cases, laboratory values automatically populate into a patient's electronic medical record when results are available. However, in the case of a critical value, the standard of care requires laboratory personnel to communicate the value directly to a healthcare provider. This typically involves a phone conversation with a nurse, unit clerk, physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner. Furthermore, the standard of care mandates that the lab tech or employee document the communication in the patient's medical record.
When laboratory personnel fail to immediately and appropriately communicate a critical lab value, it can cause a significant delay in diagnosis and treatment, serious injury, and even death. In such cases, the hospital is responsible for the substandard care provided by its employees.
If you have been seriously injured due to a lab error or communication problem in a Texas hospital, contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice attorney for a free strategy session about your potential case.