Medical malpractice happens after a patient suffers an injury due to the negligence of the hospital, doctor, and any other health care provider. Because of this negligence, the patient gets the wrong diagnosis, treatment, and health management.

Since doctors and other health care professionals are usually overworked, such incidences are common in the medical field. As a result of this, they’re more prone to making errors and burnouts while at work. This may be due to lack of enough sleep, long working hours, hectic working environment, and seriousness of the medical condition.

Therefore, to safeguard yourself from any medical malpractice, it becomes prudent to have professional liability insurance. But, is there a way you can steer clear of medical malpractice altogether?

Here are some useful tips you should implement to protect yourself from a medical malpractice lawsuit:

Ensure Everything Is Well Documented

The human brain is capable of storing between 10 to over 100 terabytes of memory. As a doctor, you are, however, susceptible to forgetting some details since you’re dealing with many patients, medical emergencies, and prolonged work shifts. Because of this, it’s advantageous to document everything properly.

With proper documentation, you have all the evidence should your patient sue you for medical negligence as the documents contain the tests, methods, observations, and results. Likewise, as a nurse, this helps physicians to make the correct diagnosis, ensuring the proper treatment care is administered.

Proper documentation is essential to prove your innocence in case of a medical malpractice liability suit. It’s also crucial for maintaining correct files and reports for health care professionals.

Always Be Consistent and Clear

Many patients don’t understand technical, medical terms that you might consider as obvious. Therefore, you need to make sure that you always use terms that are easy to understand and straightforward even to a patient that’s completely oblivious of medical terminologies. You can also decide to use visual tools that enable your patient to understand the condition they’re suffering from and how treatment or medication will help improve their health.

While it’s vital to use simple terms, you also need to remain consistent when giving diagnosis and treatment to your patients. This means you need to provide the same level of care and attention to all your patients.

Form A Good Relationship with Your Patients

Humans usually don’t like talking about their bodies and overall wellbeing. Thus, as a doctor, it’s vital to learn how to treat your patients with respect, kindness, and concern. When you do this, your patients will feel free to open up to you as you do your tests, diagnosis, and treatment of the condition.

Engaging your patients in an honest and frank communication fosters the growth of a positive relationship. By doing this, your patients will feel that you care and respect them, hence they’ll be more open about how their overall health, the treatment options, and any other issue that might be bothering them. This positive relationship not only enables you to understand your patient better but also assist the family members in knowing the right care and procedures to follow.

Nonetheless, all of this can’t happen if you fail to win your patient’s trust and, in turn, increasing the chances of getting sued should anything not go according to plan.

Talk To Other Caregivers

When information is being conveyed from one person to another, chances of miscommunication increase, especially if more than one person is involved. With the team of caregivers in the medical increasing by the day, it’s more likely that incorrect information will be shared between the arriving and departing caregiver.

As a health care provider, the best way you can prevent incorrect handoffs is by having a designated colleague to supervise the entire process of looking after a specific patient. Another great alternative is to have a checklist to verify that the information being conveyed is accurate.

Errors in lab reports are also another source of miscommunication among medical practitioners. Therefore, you should always call the lab to confirm the results on the lab reports and know whether it was a routine test or an urgent finding result.

Make Sure to Follow the Correct Procedures

When attending to all your patients, it’s always crucial to follow the laid down policies and procedures put in place. When you do this, you can be confident that any patient you attend gets the best possible care.

Moreover, you always need to be consistent when doing this. Even the slightest deviation from the set policies and procedures might adversely affect the patient’s overall wellbeing. Because of this negligence, you might have to deal with a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Thus, to safeguard yourself from a malpractice lawsuit, you should always stick to the set policies and treatments, either added or amended to your practice. Likewise, confirm that all the official documents used in the hospital are up-to-date.

Take Your Time When Doing Patient Visits

One of the best ways of protecting yourself from a malpractice suit is by not rushing when attending your patients. This means the first thing you need to do is to go over the patient’s charts carefully. After this, proceed to examine the patient’s diagnosis, treatment, and medication plans, thus being in a better position to make an informed decision about what needs to be done to improve your patient’s health.

When you do this will all your patients, it’s even more critical to take your time when attending high-risk patients. This includes patients who have colon cancer, appendicitis, breast cancer, and myocardial infarction, among others.

Always Be Organized

Life as a medical practitioner is, without a doubt, hectic, but this shouldn’t be an excuse as to why you aren’t prepared at all times. Thus, you should always set aside enough time to prepare for all your appointments before attending your patients. When you do this, your patients will feel that you’re passionate and care about how they’re doing. Because of this, you get to form a cordial relationship, and your patients will trust all your decisions since they see that you’re always hands-on.

While this is required as part of being a doctor and health care professional, it also lowers the chances of getting entangled in a malpractice lawsuit due to a patient thinking you were negligent.

Manage Your Patient’s Expectations

When treating your patients for any underlying condition, you need to be frank with them on the risks involved. Furthermore, it’s important to make them aware of what can be done to help treat their condition and what you can’t handle.

By being realistic with your patients when explaining the prognosis, procedures, and therapies, you reduce the chances of getting sued.

Implement Feedback from Your Patients 

Patient feedback is valuable in helping you know how to handle patients who are suffering from a similar problem. The best way to collect feedback from your patients is by asking your employees to receive feedback from your patient on their experience, install a suggestion box, and do surveys.

When you do this, you’ll get invaluable insights from your patients on how to improve your services or to continue offering a particular service. For example, have any of your patients delivered their thanks for following up on their progress after surgery? Do some patients complain about specific procedures?

Such feedback will help you know ways of improving the delivery of your medical services and reduce the chances of a patient filing a malpractice lawsuit against you.

Monitor Your Patients’ Tracking System 

As a medical professional, you’re required to have a functional patient tracking system in place. With such a system in place, you’ll be able to track test results, screening tests, and follow up any missed appointment. This is especially important if you attend a lot of patients each day because high chances are you might forget whether a patient needs to get test results or a screening test. It’s such trivial details that patients raise during a medical malpractice case, and you eventually end up paying a substantial amount of money for incorrect diagnosis or treatment.

You can choose to track your patients by opting for manual record entries or using an electronic medical record system. The crucial details you need to track in the tracking system include any patient who misses an appointment and every test result, especially the positive outcomes plus patient discussions on test results.

Avoid Sharing Medical Details on Social Media

Social media has taken over today’s society. Nowadays, everyone seems to either take a picture or video of almost everything they do during the day. However, if you’re a doctor or any other health care professional, this is something you must never do. Otherwise, you’ll risk facing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Therefore, you should avoid sharing any details about your workplace, including your patient’s names, the nature of your work, or any other information that may be deemed private and confidential. You can also get sued for sharing details, such as clinical observations and health records.

Always Be There for Your Patients

Life as a health care provider isn’t easy, especially days when the hospital is packed with a lot of patients, all waiting to be attended. In such scenarios, the pressure can be overwhelming, increasing the chances of making avoidable errors that you wouldn’t have made in normal circumstances. However, you need to stay calm in such situations and stick to your normal routine, and only attend as many patients as possible.

If you fail to do this, there’s a high likelihood of forgetting to examine the patient correctly and ask all the relevant questions, leading to an incorrect diagnosis. Therefore, your focus should be giving the patients you’re attending the best possible care, while simultaneously protecting yourself from a malpractice lawsuit.

Never Waste Valuable Time Referring a Patient   

As a nurse, time is of the essence when you notice a patient showing uncomfortable signs or a mild emergency and should immediately consult with a doctor. If the patient’s condition worsens to a life-threatening situation, you might get sued for medical malpractice.

Therefore, if you’re a nurse or any other health professional, such as paramedics, always act quickly to avoid the temptation of making a diagnosis without consulting a doctor.

Know When It’s Time to Retire

As a doctor, you need to be aware of age-related errors, including reduced motor skills or impaired memory. You shouldn’t overlook this fact despite most doctors carrying on to practice even in their 70s and not showing any obvious mistakes.

Therefore, if you have a hard time coping with the chaotic work life as a doctor, the best thing to do is retire. Otherwise, you might make a mistake that leads to a fatality, exposing yourself to a preventable medical malpractice lawsuit.

Continue to Undertake Educational Training

If you’re a nurse, make sure to take the extra continuing education training that happens across every state in the United States annually. By doing this, you get to be updated on the latest procedures and any other change worth knowing in your profession.

After undertaking this training, you get to enhance your skills as a nurse. Thus, should you get sued by a patient, it’ll be easier to defend yourself in the medical malpractice lawsuit.

Know You Still Can Get Sued

One of the facts that doctors and other health care professionals accept is that they might have to deal with a medical malpractice lawsuit at one point or another, regardless of their efforts. Thus, you should prepare yourself for such an outcome by having a skilled attorney and insurance in the event any one of your patients sues you.

When you do this, the impact of the malpractice suit won’t be as serious, thereby safeguarding your reputation and lowering payout demanded.

Conclusion

As a medical professional, it’s essential to safeguard yourself from a medical malpractice lawsuit. The reason for this is that such cases not only cost you a substantial amount of money due to the fines and legal fees but also dent your reputation, which might either get you sucked or have a hard time finding another job.

However, if you implement the tips discussed in this article, you need not worry about a medical malpractice suit.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "How To Protect Yourself From Medical Malpractice," in Medicalopedia, July 3, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/9042/how-to-protect-yourself-from-medical-malpractice/].