Medical malpractice lawsuits are typically brought on by patients who have suffered permanent injuries or by family members of those who have died while in the care of a doctor or hospital. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies says medical mistakes account for most of the medical errors, and they cause serious harm to over 1.5 million patients each year.
It's important for doctors to understand the risks and how to protect themselves from medical malpractice lawsuits.
1. Focus on Patient Relationships
Patients expect to get the best quality care from you, but they also expect kindness and respect. Focusing on nurturing your caregiver-patient relationships can help build trust, so patients feel more comfortable discussing specific ailments or their overall health. The goal is to establish an open and honest line of communication.
When patients are open and honest about their symptoms and health, it becomes much easier to figure out what's going on and to diagnose conditions properly.
"Misreading tests, failing to properly evaluate patients’ symptoms and successfully ruling out all possible health conditions are common causes of diagnostic errors," says Bradshaw Law LLC. "Diagnostic errors are the leading or second leading cause of malpractice claims in the U.S."
Maintaining good patient-caregiver relationships also helps you get to know your patients better.
When patients trust their doctors, they are less likely to bring a lawsuit against them. And excellent communication between doctors and patients helps prevent poor outcomes.
Maintaining good relationships with patients also means:
2. Get Informed Consent
Failure to get informed consent can land a doctor in hot water. Informed consent means discussing the advantages and potential risks associated with any treatment or care that you will provide. This also gives the patient an opportunity to discuss alternative options.
Informed consent is typically obtained through a signed agreement that is completed with enrollment paperwork. Having this signed document can help protect you in case of a malpractice lawsuit.
If you haven't done so already, make sure that you have a good system in place to maintain accurate medical records of your patients, including procedures, exams and counseling.
3. Improve Follow-Up Procedures
Follow-up failures can also lead to malpractice lawsuits. In some cases, doctors fail to receive test results. In other cases, it's the patient who fails to follow through with a test as instructed.
To avoid these outcomes, it's important for doctors and medical staff to follow up on tests properly and ensure that no instructions are overlooked.
4. Ensure that Patients are Treated with Respect
Patients want to feel respected and valued. Whether they are coming in for an appointment or need to discuss an issue they're having, it's important that they are treated with kindness when they walk through the door.
If the staff is rude or unhelpful, their behavior could easily trigger discontent and push a patient over the edge. When staff is helpful, kind and compassionate, patients are more likely to be understanding.