Hospitals are institutions that a person turns to when they are not well, with the hope that they will be treated and thus become healthy again. However, there are situations where negligence on the part of the healthcare provider can cause harm to the patient, sometimes even resulting in their death. This leads to medical malpractice suits being filed against the healthcare provider by the patient or their families. While the suit may lead to a claim payment or it might not, it does cause a dent in the reputation of the healthcare provider. Although hospitals make every effort to treat each patient correctly, however, there are many areas where things can go wrong. A little effort and setting up a series of strategies to combat medical negligence can help healthcare providers avoid medical malpractice suits.
The Journal of the American Medical Association states that medical negligence is the third leading cause of deaths, and more than 85,000 medical malpractice suits are filed in the US every year. About 12,000 patients lose their lives during an unnecessary surgery, while nearly 7,000 patients die due to medication errors. The primary cause of medical malpractice suits are prescription mistakes and procedures – these can always be prevented by following some simple yet effective strategies.
Patients require explanations. According to research, patients who feel that their healthcare provider has their best interests at heart are more forgiving of errors. One of the best ways to mitigate risk is to clearly communicate with the patient and explain what’s important. However, some circumstances do call for a formal apology, and these should be immediately forthcoming. In fact, for some patients, it is helpful to know that a doctor has learned from their medical error so that another patient won’t suffer similar consequences.
Obtaining the consent of the patient for any and all procedures that will be performed (once that a patient has received proper explanations) is crucial. This also allows the patient to ask further questions in case they are not clear about some part of the treatment.
It is crucial that doctors and other medical staff stay updated with new developments and specialties. This is especially important as more and more offices transition to having electronic records.
A lot of things can happen to tests that are ordered by the doctor. The patient may not follow through and get the tests done; the tests may not end up with the physician, the doctor may not look at the test results right away. It is very important to follow up on every level to ensure that there are no mistakes or exclusions in the treatment procedures. Following up after the visit is also important if a doctor sets up an appointment for their patient with a specialist.
Variations in Policies
When policies and procedures frequently change from physician to physician within one office, it is easy to overlook important details.
Implementing a quality control procedure which consists of a visit by a third party to obtain answers from the patient to a short questionnaire, after they have gone through their medical procedure. If the patient is happy and satisfied with the medical procedure and says so, their answer can help avoid a malpractice suit in case their condition worsens at a later stage. The data collected will also help the hospital to understand patterns of substandard care or weed out unresponsive staff.
Reduce Medication Errors
Most medication errors stem from overworked or tired staff. It is very easy to overlook details when physical and mental tiredness creeps in. If you cannot increase the staff or decrease the work hours for the existing ones, it would be beneficial to create an oversight department that would be responsible for monitoring and enforcing maximum working shifts for the staff. A tired mind is a careless mind – make sure that staff have an avenue to refresh and recharge themselves after every few hours.
Finally, a little empathy and a friendly demeanor will go a long way in keeping your patients happy and your hospital away from malpractice suits.
- Avoiding Medical Malpractice. (2015, August 19). Retrieved December 23, 2015, from harrell-nowak.com: http://harrell-nowak.com/2015/08/avoiding-medical-malpractice/
- Frank Sloan, L. C. (2015). From Medical Malpractice to Quality Assurance. Retrieved December 23, 2015, from issues.org: http://issues.org/24-3/sloan/
- Ocano, S. (2015, August 15). How hospitals can avoid medical malpractice suits. Retrieved December 23, 2015, from businessreviewusa.com: http://www.businessreviewusa.com/finance/5070/How-hospitals-can-avoid-medical-malpractice-suits