Medical malpractice is a serious threat for doctors and medical professionals. The risk of lawsuits is so threatening that 93% of cases never make it to trial. The remaining 7% go to trial. Medical professionals have their reputation on the line during malpractice cases.
Studies show that 5% of family physicians will suffer a medical malpractice lawsuit, while 7% of all physicians will enter into a malpractice lawsuit.
The risks are far too damaging for a professional to ignore.
If you want to reduce your risks of medical malpractice, you can do the following:
1. Keep an Open Line of Communication
Communication is key to reducing medical malpractice risks. When you lack communication with a patient, you're at a higher risk of a lawsuit. Doctor-patient relationships need to promote a healthy line of communication.
Even the world's brightest, most talented doctors have suffered because they failed to keep an open line of communication with their patients. As a doctor, it's important to know that communication-errors are one of the lawsuits.
You can enhance your communication through:
- Building strong relationships with your patients
- Asking patients an abundance of questions
- Listening and guiding your patients
If you're a doctor who rushes patients through the door, you are risking a malpractice lawsuit.
2. Focus on Documentation
Patients may communicate with their doctors, but if a key component of care is overlooked, you need proof of what you said: documentation. This documentation will help you defend against a case where the patient failed to listen to your recommendations.
You'll need to keep reports for every patient visit, including:
- Significant issues
- Times and dates
You'll also need to write legibly and identify who you talked to. If you were treating a child, you may have relayed the information to both parents as well as the child. Keep this information in your records so that you have proof that you did your best to prescribe treatment and make recommendations.
Clear and concise documentation is key in the medical field.
Documentation will also be able to help show your:
- Thought process
- Decision making
- Goals and expectations
If you lack proper documentation, it'll be much harder to prove your recommendations had a solid medical reasoning.
3. Maintain Current Standards
The medical field requires standards. Medical malpractice is on a state level, so every state has their own set of standards for medical professionals. Each jurisdiction will help their own standards that all medical professionals must follow.
You want to make sure that you know and understand these standards.
Complying with standards and staying current on all standards that have changed – and there are many – is essential to lowering your risk of medical malpractice.
4. Make Referrals When Needed
You're a doctor, and you've went through a massive amount of schooling. You, like most professionals, have a lot of pride. But, pride will get you in trouble. There are times when a health condition doesn’t make sense.
Maybe the condition is outside your specialty.
And that's fine.
What's not fine is continuing to make promises and offering help when you're not well-informed of the condition. Refer your patients to specialists that may have a better understanding of the condition than you do.
Don't be afraid to swallow your pride and ask for help.
If you let your own pride get in the way, you may offer the wrong medical advice, leading to serious legal consequences.
5. Informed Consent is a Must
- Procedure details
Lacking informed consent is asking for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
6. Follow-Up with Patients
You should follow-up with your patients. The goal is to offer the best medical advice possible, and a follow-up is a good way to stay current on the patient's condition. When you make a follow-up, even if it's a phone call, you can help curb issues as they arise.
If the patient isn't finding relief or is doing worse, you can ask them to come in or go to the emergency room.
Feedback directly from the patient allows you to work cohesively with the patient and ensures a good doctor-patient relationship.