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Risk Mitigation Strategies for Physicians to Avoid a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit


July 30, 2020

Harsha Moole, M.D., MBBS


Risk Mitigation Strategies for Physicians to Avoid a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

 

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice, I am not a financial advisor or an attorney. You have to reach out to your attorney for legal advice. The information presented here is purely for educational and entertainment purposes. These are my personal opinions and do not represent the opinions of my employer. 

 

Risk Mitigation Strategies for Physicians to Avoid a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit. Hospitalist practice is a major part of inpatient care, they also have a crucial role to play in intensive care units. The hospitalist works with patients and families on a daily basis, aiding in all stages of specialty care. As years pass by, this relatively new specialty has been seeing increasingly higher number of medical malpractice claims, which is likely due to the length and breadth of what the hospitalists do. It is hard to find a solution for complete risk elimination as there are too many complicated moving parts, however, there is a lot we can do as physicians, to reduce the risk of medical practice. Our aim is to help increase your awareness of the risk areas and be able to come up with risk mitigation strategies. In this blog post you will learn how to reduce risk of a medical malpractice lawsuit through 10 best risk mitigation strategies for physicians.

 

The information presented below has been gathered from two thoroughly performed research studies by The Doctors Company, and Cooperative of American Physicians. Together, these studies evaluated 484 claims against hospitalists that closed. 

 

Risk Mitigation Strategies for Physicians is one of the 5 blog posts on how to avoid a medical malpractice lawsuit. In this series, the next blog posts discuss medical malpractice lawsuit – 6 most common medical malpractice claims, top 6 circumstances contributing to patient injury, 6 communication tips to reduce malpractice risk for physicians, along with the patient injury severity scale

 

Lets not keep you waiting any longer. Here we go!

 

Physician’s Risk Management Practices to Minimize  Medical Malpractice Claims
1 Act Fast! Act Smart! Call emergent consults personally when needed!
2 Spinal Epidural Abscess, Pulmonary Embolism, Aortic Dissection–Watch out for these.
3 Smile at your nurses, and ask how you can help them!
4 Don’t just take off after your shift–Handoffs are vital. 
5 Be a team member & team leader. Be in charge and assume responsibility.
6 Documentation saves you! It is the foundation of claims defence. 
7 Spend time with patients, listen to them, and manage expectations. 
8 Watch like a hawk–labs, radiology, consult notes, nursing notes, and etc. 
9 Develop a sound discharge process! Don’t let things fall through the cracks.
10 Don’t be shy. Communication is the key. Overcome your inertia to make that phone call. 

 

Pay Attention to These Top Notch Risk Management Tips 

(1) Act Fast! Act Smart! Call emergent consults personally when needed!

  • A provisional diagnosis in many cases is derived based on how quickly the hospitalist ordered diagnostic studies are performed and interpreted. If the findings show a serious result, quickly call and inform the respective specialists to involve them in patient’s care.

(2) Spinal Epidural Abscess, Pulmonary Embolism, Aortic Dissection–Watch out for these.

  • Although historically not common, these diagnoses are observed in medical malpractice claims with increasing frequency. Spinal Epidural Abscess appears to have a recognized pattern of presentation—neck or back pain, loss of neurological control or sensation, and fever. In response, an MRI should be ordered STAT to confirm the diagnosis. The help of a surgeon is important in the diagnostic process to speed up treatment and sustain neurological function. Aortic Dissections and Pulmonary Embolisms are also on this list.

(3) Smile at your nurses, and ask how you can help them!

  • Communicate effectively with nurses. Build rapport with nurses, be accessible and responsive. Be approachable. Nurses should not hesitate to reach out to you because they are scared of your response. 

(4) Don’t just take off after your shift–Handoffs are vital.

  • Talk to your colleague taking over your patients, reveal any concerns and differentials for specific patients when signing out to fellow hospitalists. Notify them about patients who have confusing presentations or deteriorating conditions, and pending work up / diagnostics.

(5) Be a team member & team leader. Be in charge and assume responsibility.

  • Create a good relationship with the other physician specialists. You cannot afford to have communication gaps in patient care. Keep track with the other specialists who have joined the case. Give a clear view of your responsibility and coordinate care along with the clinical team and the specialists.

(6) Documentation saves you! It is the foundation of claims defence. 

  • Write detailed notes of any non-compliant or non-cooperative patient. Try to use the exact phrases used by the patient and  family. Document your recommendations. Document the names of any other witnesses present in the room. Documentation is the foundation of claims defence. There is a common saying—’if you did not document it, you did not do it.’

(7) Spend time with patients, listen to them, and manage expectations. 

  • Spend time to let your patient know you better. Let them understand your responsibilities as a hospitalist while the patient is in the hospital for treatment, as opposed to a primary care physicians role. They are often confused about why their PCP is not taking care of them in the hospital. 

(8) Watch like a hawk–labs, radiology, consult notes, nursing notes, and etc.

  • Keep track of all the documentation to make sure that you are aware of all consultation reports, consultant orders, and any slight changes in the patient’s condition that nursing teams might have noticed.

(9) Develop a solid discharge process! Don’t let things fall through the cracks.

  • Follow fool-proof protocols, provide structured written patient education and instructions, explaining patient about their discharge medication and changes made to it. Provide them with clear follow-up plans.  

(10) Don’t be shy. Communication is the key. Overcome your inertia to make that phone call.

  • Communication is the key. Communication teams include ER docs, Consultants, PCPs, Nurses, Case Managers, and Pharmacists. The more you share your plans and the more you listen to them, the better it is for your patients and you.

 

Although most of the content presented in this blog post seems pretty basic, the goal of this blog post is to highlight the importance of topics that often fall through the cracks, and eventually get physicians and patients in trouble. I hope that you picked up at least a few key points from this article, to include them in your practice. Practice thoroughly, keep your patient safe, and you stay safe!

 

Now that you learned about risk mitigation strategies for physicians, please also read the rest of the blog articles in the same series: Medical Malpractice Lawsuit – 6 Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims, Top 6 Circumstances Contributing to Patient Injury, 6 Communication Tips to Reduce Malpractice Risk for Physicians, along with the Patient Injury Severity Scale

 

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Risk Mitigation Strategies

Legal Disclaimer: This is not investment advice. I am not a legal and/or investment advisor. This is my personal blog, and all information found here, including any ideas, opinions, views, predictions, forecasts, commentaries, suggestions, or stock picks, expressed or implied herein, are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only and should not be construed as personal investment advice. These are my views, it is not a production of my employer, nor is it affiliated with any broker/dealer or registered investment advisor. While the information provided is believed to be accurate, it may include errors or inaccuracies. To the maximum extent permitted by law, PhysicianEstate disclaims any and all liability in the event any information, commentary, analysis, opinions, advice and/or recommendations prove to be inaccurate, incomplete or unreliable, or result in any investment or other losses. You should consult with an attorney or other professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs. Your use of the information on the website or materials linked from the Web is at your own risk. 

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Authored by Harsha Moole, M.D., MBBS

Hey there! I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. PhysicianEstate is my brain child and passion project. I run this platform to empower entrepreneurially motivated physicians to make financially educated investment decisions and discuss asset protection strategies. Lots of important but free content here and here! If you have any questions or if you are interested in partnering with me, let’s connect! hmoole@physicianestate.com

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