How to Avoid Medical Malpractice Suits and Other Legal Troubles
We all have heard the well-known proverb, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ And this becomes specifically true for the medical malpractice realm. The constant threat of malpractice lawsuits looming over healthcare professionals, coupled with income loss and tarnished reputation, is sufficient to keep physicians wary.
Primarily, patients file malpractice claims against physicians for a plethora of reasons. These include prescription mistakes, slipshod errors, device malfunctions, or privacy leaks. According to research in 2018, around 34% of physicians have faced medical litigation in their career journey. Also, approximately half of physicians aged 55 and above have had a lawsuit filed against them.
The prime purpose of presenting these figures isn’t to intimidate healthcare practitioners or scare them off. Instead, the intention of bombarding these numbers is to uphold the measures to help them abstain from the circumstances that can lead to malpractice lawsuits.
Of course, there are times when medical malpractice suits are unavoidable; some factors aren’t in the control of healthcare professionals. However, more often than not, medical malpractice claims emanate from simple preventable actions.
To help healthcare professionals navigate this legal area, here are some of the pointers they must embrace to avoid liability and overcome the exposure to medical litigation:
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Follow the standards and protocols
Healthcare organizations develop medical laws, policies, and procedures for a reason. The medical laws and regulations vary for every state and differ from one healthcare facility to another. Not to mention how these laws get amended within every jurisdiction. Healthcare professionals who fail to adhere to these laws and protocols and take benign shortcuts may find themselves at a heightened risk of malpractice lawsuits if something goes amiss.
For instance, if a newborn falls victim to a healthcare professional’s negligent behavior during childbirth and suffers from cerebral palsy. In that case, the family has the right to hold the concerned party accountable. Additionally, the family might seek legal help to determine the value of their case and receive financial compensation.
And in turn, the lawyers, who possess the necessary skills and expertise to navigate the birth injury lawsuits, might file a claim against the medical professional. Therefore, it gives healthcare practitioners more reasons to remain apprised of laws and protocols and stay abreast of the newest developments in the field.
The very first line of defense for healthcare practitioners against medical litigation is appropriate documentation. Professionals should always record the correct time, event, date, and procedure. While it’s true that healthcare workers have a lot on their plate; however, overlooking documentation about patient interaction can spell adverse repercussions.
Suppose a healthcare provider fails to incorporate all details and documents meticulously. In that case, the plaintiff might point it out during a medical malpractice lawsuit. In contrast, if healthcare professionals keep track of everything in particular detail, they can successfully assert that the action in question has occurred. In sum, thorough, proper, and consistent documentation can appear as evidence when the lawsuit rears its head.
Therefore, physicians should register spoken communication between the healthcare team and the patients and their families. Also, the grounds and reasoning of a medical procedure and its potential implications should be a part of the documentation process.
Establish healthy relationships with patients
While documentation undeniably serves as a strong wall of defense against malpractice suits; however, establishing healthy relationships with patients is also a preemptive measure. Poor listening habits, lack of conversation, and improper discussions are some of the objections patients decide to come up with when filing a medical complaint. Therefore, it’s indispensable to build a strong rapport with patients through mutual trust and understanding.
One of the most effective ways medical professionals can create solid relationships is by putting themselves in the patient’s shoes. Take one step back and observe the whole situation from another person’s viewpoint.
Of course, anything that irks healthcare workers to no end will most certainly frustrate the patients too. Therefore, make the patients feel genuinely cared for and timely respond to calls, messages, and emails.
Try to provide them with a comfortable environment and let them communicate their health concerns. And healthcare team members should keep the patients in the loop about their condition and give consistent updates. Also, don’t forget to communicate courteously. Remember, when patients visit physicians, they are in a vulnerable state. So, show them you feel truly devoted and concerned about their health.
Refer patients to other skilled practitioners when required
Undoubtedly, healthcare professionals study for prolonged hours and gain hands-on experience to broaden their educational spectrum and hone their expertise. With that said, professionals who believe they can treat any patient suffering from any symptom and prescribe any medication is quixotic.
One cannot expect that a single healthcare professional can have answers to all questions. That’s because experienced and skilled physicians and doctors can only be adept in their specialty, not every other specialty.
Therefore, don’t try to be a superhero and accept the boundaries. It’s the responsibility of every healthcare professional to swallow their pride and not feel reluctant to seek help from physicians that fall outside of their scope. The pertinacity of healthcare professionals getting in the way of patient care can ruin the patient’s health.
However, be sure to document the referral slip. In the case of medical malpractice litigation, the patient might take the position of never receiving the referral receipt.
The rate of malpractice cases has dropped slightly since the outbreak of Covid-19. Besides, family physicians were relatively at a reduced risk of medical malpractice suits than physicians appertaining to other specialties. Nonetheless, the anxiety and jitters of the lawsuit, whenever filed, remain as immense as it was ever before.
Understanding the factors that can lead to malpractice lawsuits can go a long way in avoiding the risks of contending with one. Therefore, practice effective communication, which encompasses orienting statements and longer consultations. Over and above, prioritize patient education and value patient care. Healthcare professionals who always keep patient interaction at the core of their practice will likely enhance their own experience.
If patients feel understood and valued, healthcare professionals can feel content about fulfilling their duty of care. And, expectantly, they can also avoid litigation proceedings. Remember, prevention is always the best medicine when it comes to healthcare.