Six ways physicians can prevent patient injury and avoid lawsuits
Medical malpractice suits happen every day and it takes a toll on the physician, especially when the physician tried their best to help a patient. Risks surrounds physicians every day from alleged diagnostic errors to inadequate follow-up. By recognizing what poses the greatest risk, physicians can create and implement formal policies and procedures to protect their practices. Risk management is a series of strategies designed to reduce the likelihood of injury to the patient, and when injury occurs, to reduce the likelihood that a suit results.
Medical Economics shows six common risk that can be mitigated to prevent malpractice lawsuits.
- Faulty Communication: Being open and honest when communicating with patients is the best approach. When patients feel that their health care provider has their best interest in mind, they tend to forgive more errors. Listen carefully, offer clear answers and instructions, address complaints, set realistic expectations, include family members if appropriate and be sure to document EVERYTHING. Thorough documentation can make all the difference.
- 2. Lack of informed consent: Patient consent is a big area where claims can come into play. Make sure that the patient consents to whatever procedure the doctor is doing. The need to have a full understanding of the risk the procedure may involve. It is important to verbally communicate well prior to anything being done, not after.
- 3. Failure to stay up-to-date on standards and training: Physicians also need to be aware of new and revised developments in their areas of practice and specialties. Often, medical liability issues focus on the question of whether the doctor followed current standards of practice. Clinicians should make sure they are current in training on their organization’s systems and familiar with the issues regarding use of templates and clinical support systems in computer-based pharmaceutical ordering.
- 4. Inadequate follow-up of diagnostic tests and specialist referrals: There are instances when tests results aren’t received by the ordering physician. On other occasions, patients don’t follow through with tests as directed; or the results come in, are filed away before the physician reviews them, and the patient isn’t briefed about the findings. If test results that indicate patients need further testing or treatments are lost or not addressed, patients may not receive necessary treatment. It is essential that physicians and their staffs be able to track the status of these orders to make sure that none are overlooked or forgotten.
- 5. Variations in policies and procedures: Policies and procedures should be specific and readily available to all staff members. They can be kept in a notebook or manual or in an electronic format that is easy for the office staff to access. The physician or a committee should review policies and procedures on an annual basis to ensure that they reflect preferences and requirements.
- 6. Avoidance behavior: Compassionate gestures count. If a hospitalized patient has a bad outcome, some physicians may avoid making rounds in the presence of relatives. Don’t be afraid to face them. It’s important to let them know you understand how they feel. Make eye contact with whomever you’re addressing and put a comforting hand on the individual’s arm
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