Find out how doctors can avoid malpractice suits

Updated on September 8, 2020
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One of the worries that most doctors have during service is being sued for medical malpractice. Many people who lose family members because of doctor negligence keep filing malpractice lawsuits against certain caregivers. Such a case is not only emotionally tormenting for the family involved but also the specific doctor. Though you may have the expertise to treat patients, you need to do everything you can to give each patient the best care to avoid such lawsuits. 

Offering the best clinical care minimizes the risks of being sued for malpractice. Every physician should implement specific strategies to reduce these risks. If you want to practice medicine for long without ever being on the wrong side of the law, you should be keen on the following.

Prioritize communication

One of the factors that lead to medical malpractice is poor communication between patients and physicians. As a medical practitioner, you have to ensure that you always keep communication lines open to avoid any conflicts between the parties involved. Your objective should be to create a trusting rapport between yourself and patients so that they have full confidence in you.

When you make your patients feel that they can trust you, they will not feel the need to disclose any relevant information that may affect how you treat them. This can minimize the risks of a medical error when it comes to making a diagnosis. Excellent communication is the key to creating a strong relationship between yourself and the patients. By achieving this, you minimize the chances of your patient suing you in case the situation gets out of hand. 

Sometimes, errors occur during different procedures, but when there is open communication between various parties, a malpractice lawsuit can be avoided. When you interact with your patients, you should avoid dismissing any of their concerns even if they don’t seem relevant at the moment.

Be a good listener and come up with realistic expectations. If your patient asks questions, always give them clear answers that they understand rather than using medical jargon that only leave them confused. If you are not good at communication, you can even learn some interpersonal skills before you start treating patients.

 Involve other staff members

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Though you may be a good doctor, working alone in treating patients is not wise. You need some nurses to help you in treating different patients. Be careful when working with staff since they can sometimes put you at risk of a malpractice lawsuit. When working with a team, remind them always to uphold professional etiquette. 

In case your department is experiencing delays, your staff members should explain this to patients waiting for their turn. This is because long waits without any explanations sometimes frustrate certain patients. It is also essential for your staff members to keep on updating patients regularly in such circumstances. 

You should also ensure that your team members have the right training to deal with difficult patients. Experts recommend conducting training sessions with your staff regularly. This can reduce things from escalating, especially in emergency rooms. Let your staff be your ears. For instance, you can ask the front desk staff to observe how different patients react after leaving the consultation room. By giving you such information, it can help you know how to follow up on each patient after they have visited your facility. 

Set strong policies

If you want to reduce the risks of being sued for medical malpractice, you should ensure that you have strong workplace policies. As a medical practitioner, you should avoid taking shortcuts when treating patients. During a medical lawsuit, doctors have to explain how they carried out different procedures in detail.

Showing that you followed the right procedure can prevent you from losing your practicing license. Lawyers from Kathy Snapka are always harsh on medical practitioners who take shortcuts and don’t like following protocol. Establish a policy that can address patient expectations and delegate specific roles to your team. If, for instance, you are the head of a department, you need a policy that states the particular tasks that every member of your team is expected to perform. 

The policy can also include the specific type of patients that certain staff members can see and when supervision is required. Laying out such rules can prevent being sued for performing a procedure that one is not qualified for. You can also determine which staff should handle tasks such as ensuring patients’ privacy or handling complaints. In case of any updates in the policies and procedures, every staff member on your team should be well informed.

Focus on proper documentation

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Proper documentation is also essential in every hospital since it can reduce the risks of being sued for medical malpractice. In case you are sued, having accurate records can act as proof of everything you did while treating a particular patient. Every physician should, therefore, think about what they need to document when treating different patients. 

One of the critical elements that should be put down in writing is informed consent. As a doctor, you need to know the informed consent laws in your state and always abide by them as you treat every patient. When handling a patient, tell them about their condition, treatment options, and risks involved. Give them a consent form that they should sign to show that they are in agreement with your decision. 

You should also document that you have received the medical history of a patient and show how you have considered a patient’s history while making the diagnosis. Also, document the specific instructions you provide every patient. As you give a patient these instructions, you should retain copies since you might need them for future reference. 

Any information that you discussed should be documented in note form. If someone questions your diagnosis later, proper documentation can reflect that you took a systematic and reasonable approach in administering care. Your notes can prove that you were not negligent in treating a patient.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.