Medical malpractice is a serious issue that affects all clinicians at some point in their careers. It is a concern that cannot be ignored as it can significantly impact the lives of patients and physicians alike.
Despite their best efforts, most doctors and healthcare staff still face the risk of possible malpractice lawsuits, as evidenced by a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This study found that 99% of physicians in high-risk surgical fields and 75% in low-risk fields like pediatrics would face a malpractice claim by age 65.
However, many medical errors that lead to litigation are caused by poor communication and misunderstandings. Building strong relationships with patients can reduce the risk of malpractice claims and bring additional benefits, such as enhancing patient retention and outcomes. On that note, here are a few tips to help healthcare professionals prevent malpractice and negligence.
Educate and communicate with your patients thoroughly
When it comes to patient education and communication, it is important to leave no information unshared. Patients may struggle to comprehend everything discussed during appointments because of their unfamiliarity with complex medical terminology or simply because some patients are visual learners.
So, to ensure patients receive comprehensive education, it is essential to offer high-quality educational materials that are easily understandable and accessible to patients and their family members and caregivers.
In addition to staying up-to-date on CME requirements and advancements in their field, healthcare professionals should also educate themselves on the latest legal regulations pertaining to the healthcare industry. This can be done by joining health-legal discussion forums online and reading medical malpractice articles and cases.
Patients often hear about these advances through the news and the internet, and being familiar with them can help doctors discuss them with their patients, reinforcing their patients’ confidence in them. Ultimately, healthcare professionals can reduce the likelihood of lawsuits by being up-to-date with the latest trends in healthcare and providing patients with the best information and medical care, doc
Never forget to follow up with patients
Doctors who implement procedures to ensure that missed appointments and tests are followed up on are at a lower risk of being sued. Additionally, a follow-up phone call after the appointment to check up on the patient’s progress is a thoughtful gesture to show service providers care for patients and to verify if the latter are adhering to any necessary treatments or tests.
This not only allows doctors to build trust and credibility in their patients’ eyes but also allows them to avoid falling victim to unnecessary medical malpractice lawsuits.
Keep track of medical and personal information
It is important to review patients’ charts carefully before examinations and procedures. Jot down any relevant information about their personal lives, such as their interests, family, and other details, which can help you build a strong rapport with them and demonstrate that you view them as individuals rather than just statistics.
Additionally, it is crucial to remember that EHR (Electronic Health Records) usually include a time stamp indicating when the chart was reviewed and for how long. This information becomes a part of the medical record and can be significant evidence to support your defense in the case of legal action.
Always remain attentive
Medical malpractice is a serious issue that can arise because of burnout and poor judgment. As a professional with someone else’s life in their hands, it’s important to be aware of every stressor’s impact on your work. Living a healthy lifestyle and having a balanced work/life schedule are great ways to stay sharp, but when stressors arise, you must recognize the warning signs and take a time out.
Doing so can help you avoid situations where you may be more prone to making mistakes that could have serious consequences, like a medical malpractice claim. So, focus on your health and well-being to ensure you perform at your best in all aspects of your professional life.
Understand that satisfied patients are less likely to sue
The connection between patient satisfaction and the likelihood of malpractice lawsuits can never be overstated. Patients tend to remember the emotions they experienced while interacting with healthcare professionals more than the actual words exchanged.
Simple gestures like eye contact and addressing patients by name can make a significant difference. On the other hand, typing on a computer or looking at your watch while interacting with the patient can make them feel unimportant and rushed.
Therefore, healthcare providers should avoid minor yet significant mistakes that can hurt patient satisfaction and increase the risk of lawsuits.
Ask for help when in doubt
As a healthcare professional, you should understand the gravity of being responsible for someone’s health and well-being. There may be situations where your standard treatment methods fail to yield results, and that’s when you need to seek help from others in the field.
It is crucial to remember that medical malpractice can have severe consequences, and it’s not worth risking someone’s life because of your ego. Asking for assistance or referring the patient to a specialist is a wise decision that showcases your commitment to quality care. Remember, putting your obstinacy before the patient’s health can lead to devastating personal and professional outcomes.
Always get patients’ consent
While this may be a no-brainer, some healthcare providers make this mistake occasionally. However, obtaining informed consent from patients before administering any type of treatment is crucial to reduce the risks involved for both you and them.
After all, in the healthcare sector, receiving documented informed consent is standard practice. That said, the primary objective of informed consent is to protect healthcare providers from legal action.
Always get it in writing
Having clear and specific documentation can be useful when explaining a particular situation and defending your actions. On the other hand, insufficient or unclear documentation can make you more vulnerable to a malpractice lawsuit.
Although healthcare professionals are familiar with documentation requirements, there is still room for improvement. While it may not be feasible to document every interaction with patients, it is important to write in a readable manner and include all observations and recommendations, as well as the date, time, and signature for each entry.
Establishing a strong doctor-patient relationship is crucial to avoid medical malpractice claims. This can only be achieved through transparent and effective communication. Communicating comprehensively and clearly with patients during each visit is essential to ensure their well-being and earn their trust. Patients who feel valued are likelier to have positive experiences and better outcomes and are less likely to pursue legal action even if complications arise.