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Published On: Fri, Nov 1st, 2019

Seven Ways to Avoid Malpractice Suits

Getting sued by a patient is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a physician. His years of reputation and trust can be washed away with just one malpractice. Numerically speaking, about 7 percent of the physicians are sued every year in America. These numbers could be scary for someone aspiring to be a doctor and understandably so. 

Strangely enough, the lawsuits don’t take place because of the medical lapses. Sometimes even medically sound doctors are also dragged to the court due to malpractices. In a nutshell, as a physician, you need more than just medical expertise to avoid lawsuits. Sticking to the following practices will do the job for you: 

Build a Healthy Relationship with Patients

Healthy relationships with patients go a long way. If people are in good terms with a doctor, they are most likely to let go even if a mishap occurs. So rather than consuming all your energies on how good you are in your field, you should also put some effort into effective communication as well.

The best way to cater to healthy relationships with patients is to put yourself in patients’ shoes. It would give you a clear picture of how your patient wants to be treated. Here are a few things you should do to nurture better doctor-patient association:

  • Be focused on the patient It is noted that doctors are usually doing multiple things at one time. They are talking on a call, replying to an email and observing a patient all at the same time. Even if the patient has a minor disease, you should not adopt a casual approach at all.
  • Ask your staff to behave courteously All your politeness can go down the drain if your staff misbehaves with a patient.
  • Listen to your patients People may not have a medical background and what they say may have little weight as far as medical science is concerned, but they want to be heard. Don’t shrug off at their opinions rather convince them.  

photo/ Darko Stojanovic

Keep Yourself Updated About Current Medical Standard

Firstly, medical standards vary from state to state. you must have a clear idea about which medical practices are valid in your state and which ones have been abandoned. Without drawing a clear distinction between the two, you will always be vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits. And the law keeps changing from time to time, you should try your best to stay current.

Secondly, medical science is rapidly progressing. Every now and then, a new phenomenon is hitting the scene. You should surf the internet more frequently and read the relevant material, such as magazines, to stay updated about the latest discoveries. As a physician, it can’t be any more embarrassing if you get to know from a patient about what is happing in the world of medical science.

Get Informed Consent from the Patient

Before going through any major therapy or suchlike treatment, it is important to obtain a patient’s informed consent. By doing so, the patient would know beforehand what risks are involved in a particular treatment and what kind of outcome may occur. 

Again, this document bridges the communication gap between the patient and the doctor and keeps them on the same page. Before signing the informed consent form, the doctor must allow space and time to the patient so that he can seek suggestions and decide on his own whether to proceed with your prescribed treatment or not. It would not be wise to influence your patience’s decision. 

Don’t Overlook Homework

Physicians are all always running out of time. But don’t let this excuse come between you and your homework. Doctors have the tendency to go through the records of the patient’s previous visits and medical background just when the patient is sitting in front of them. For many people, this attitude does not match the professional level and might find it annoying. 

You should do your homework and even go the extra mile by remembering the names of patients and their pets. You can melt anyone with such a gesture and the patients will not have a hard time overlooking your minor errors.

Never Shy Away from Assistance

Sometimes doctors have to face lawsuits because they are too rigid to swallow their pride. They would rather put their patient’s health at risk instead of seeking a piece of advice from a senior doctor. The field of medical science is vast. It takes a fool to expect that he knows everything.

So when you are dealing with a case that somehow lays slightly outside your scope, you should put your pride aside and seek advice from your colleague. To be brief, when you are heading towards your clinic, leave your pride and ego at home.

Be Honest and Transparent

It is often observed that doctors cultivate unrealistic expectations among patients. As a result, when expectations are not translated into reality, they lead to bigger disappointments among patients and lawsuits are just a matter of time. 

Being a physician, you should always spark hope in your patients but there is a fine line between being hopeful and being unrealistic. By all means, you should avoid doing the latter. Instead of sticking to the formula of “over-promising and under-delivering” you should adopt the mantra of “under-promising and over-delivering”. 

At the same time, in all honesty, you should convey to your patient the real picture of his health and ongoing process of treatment. You should explain all the diagnoses, medication plans and other stuff in layman’s terms so that he can fully understand. 

Don’t forget to follow up

Don’t be one of those physicians who forget their patients as soon as they are out of sight. You must have a complete process of follow-up. It greatly decreases the chances of malpractice. 

It is best to set up the protocols to stay in touch with the patient. So much so, if your patient is going to another physician, you should keep it in your records too. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, it does not take any major overhauls to avoid lawsuits. You just have to be careful about small things and they will pretty much do the job. Rest assured, if you can look after all the abovesaid measures, you need not be intimidated by lawsuits at all.

Author: Christine Rudolph

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