Five Ways of Reducing Malpractice Risk
One of questions we are most frequently asked is “How can I avoid being sued?” To many outsiders, the motive behind this question from a physician is solely economic; the perception is that physicians want to avoid lawsuits solely because they are concerned about their malpractice insurance rates and financial impact on their personal and professional lives. However, this view fails to account for the vast majority of physicians who care deeply for their patients and are committed to providing quality care. Unfortunately, talking about the personal and emotional toll on a physician accused of malpractice it is verboten in the context of litigation, where a former patient has suffered an injury or passed away, but from personal experience it is obvious that involvement in a lawsuit can be an emotionally wrenching experience for the accused. This emotional response stems from what I view to be the value an overwhelming number of physicians place on caring for and seeking the best outcomes for their patients.
Unfortunately there is obviously no silver bullet to entirely avoid the risk of a malpractice lawsuit; regrettably it is a cost of doing business for physicians today. However, there are some things physicians can do to reduce their malpractice risk. Here are five: 1) take time to communicate with and educate the patient; 2) be diligent and obsessive about documentation; 3) be aware of and comply with policies and procedures; 4) enlist the help of your staff in dealing with patients; and, 5) if a mal-event occurs, express regret and compassion to the patient and his or her family.
Based on studies regarding who brings lawsuits and physicians that are sued, the key to reducing malpractice risk is the relationship between physician and patient not professional skill. By taking steps such as those enumerated above, and addressing the process of care rather than just quality of care, the risk of facing a lawsuit can hopefully be reduced.
In future posts, we will elaborate on each of these steps, so stay tuned!