Medicine is a complicated profession accompanied by risks. Even the most competent and dedicated practitioner may be exposed to a malpractice lawsuit and some specialties have even more exposure to negligence actions.
The first step in a medical malpractice defense is taking measures to reduce the risk of those lawsuits from ever being filed. These precautions also improve care and increase compliance with regulations and legal requirements.
According to studies, the way doctors communicate with patients can help indicate whether patients will sue, especially after an adverse event.
Try to establish strong-physician relationships and communication. Explain, in nontechnical terms, the patient’s diagnosis and care plan.
Practitioners should ask new patients to sign a statement containing the treatment conditions, fee payments, appointment cancellation, continuity of care, follow-up directions and expectations concerning the patient’s obligations to treat staff, doctors and other patients with courtesy.
Before performing a procedure, obtain written and oral informed consent from patients. Set forth all possible complications associated with the procedure. Have the patient sign the informed consent.
Careful documentation of treatment and other care issues in the patient’s records is important.
If you face a medical condition that you see infrequently, take the time to assure that you have current information on that condition’s diagnosis and treatment. There should be guidelines governing when physician assistants and nurse practitioners should refer patients or obtain a second opinion.
Follow patients closely and document your actions if they have a serious or life-threatening condition. Carefully document your treatment. Send certified letters to patients who do not follow up on their treatment, outlining the risk and potential issues if they do not comply with follow-up care instructions.
Attorneys can assist doctors with defending against malpractice claims. They can help them investigate, collaborate with their insurer and represent their interests in court and negotiations.