Building a successful independent practice requires knowledge, expertise, and the ability to develop positive patient-provider relationships. It also requires preparation for adverse events, including understanding strategies for defending against medical malpractice litigation.
Even when you and your team consistently focus on providing the highest quality care to your patients, the possibility always remains that one of those patients may decide to sue for something they feel you did – or didn’t do. Taking steps now to prevent a lawsuit and being prepared to deal with one when it happens are key, according to the experts.
Clear and concise communication with a patient and with their family or caregivers is critical. That means slowing down and confirming that the information you’ve provided is definitely understood. When a patient comes to see you, they may be emotional or even scared, not knowing what the outcome of their visit may be. Take the time to enhance their understanding of their diagnosis and their treatment options, to prevent issues that may result in a malpractice lawsuit.
Most professionals advise that there is no such thing as being too thorough when discussing information with your patient. Often, a patient will agree that the information is understood during the visit, but their emotional state can cloud their understanding and memory. Providing additional, printed information can help clarify and educate them, particularly as it gives them something to confirm your communications once they leave the office.
Ensure that all documentation about the visit, the patient’s diagnosis, and the recommended treatment plan, including all medications, is accurate and current in the patient’s electronic health record (EHR). If a patient is not adhering to recommended treatment, that should also be noted in their record. In the case of a lawsuit, this documentation will be critically important, especially if the patient did not follow instructions for their own care or take medications as recommended.
Staying up to date on advances in healthcare technology, procedures, and other news can help you provide the highest quality care to your patients as well as be prepared for questions from those patients about information they may have accessed elsewhere. The prevalence of social media in today’s digital world means that your patients are constantly reading about issues that may or may not be true. Your ability to explain the facts to them, in a clear, concise, and caring manner, will reinforce their confidence in you and your practice.
Even when taking all the necessary precautions and being proactive in providing quality care, you may still face a malpractice suit at some point in your medical career. The first step, of course, is to ensure you have appropriate malpractice insurance for yourself and your practice. Verify that your policy is with an admitted carrier in your state. An insurer can be an admitted carrier or a risk retention group. Those groups, however, are not insured by every state so you will have no safeguard if the company goes out of business, for example.
If you do face a malpractice lawsuit at any point, contact a qualified lawyer immediately. Do not try to handle it yourself or ignore it, hoping it will go away. Since you have taken the necessary steps to defend against a medical malpractice lawsuit, you will be better able to realize a positive outcome.