Strategies for Minimizing Medical Malpractice RiskAugust 31, 2023 | - News & Insights
Accusations of medical malpractice are among the most serious risks for doctors and other healthcare professionals. While the burden of proving medical malpractice is high, even the accusation of medical malpractice can have a corrosive effect on a doctor’s career. That is why it is essential to prevent allegations of malpractice before they occur through smart risk management strategies. Different medical specialties have different standards of care, but all doctors and healthcare professionals can minimize their risk of being accused of medical malpractice by following the same general principles. A North Carolina medical malpractice defense attorney can help you minimize your malpractice risk and defend against claims of malpractice if they arise.
The Basics of Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical malpractice claims typically arise when a patient suffers an injury that he or she believes is due to the negligence of a healthcare provider. This can occur in a variety of ways. A few common examples are failure to diagnose and delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, failure to treat, surgical errors, and medication errors. The elements of a medical malpractice claim are the elements of negligence:
- Duty: The existence of a doctor-patient relationship
- Breach: The doctor’s provision of care was not in accordance with the standards of practice among members of the same healthcare profession with similar training and experience
- Causation: The doctor’s breach of the standard of care caused the patient’s injury
- Damages: The injury resulted in significant harm to the patient
Just because a patient suffers an injury during a medical procedure does not mean malpractice has occurred; rather, the injury must have been due to a breach of the relevant standard of care. Determinations of the relevant standard of care — and whether a particular doctor breached them — are highly complex and often require the testimony of expert witnesses.
If you have been accused of medical malpractice, a North Carolina medical malpractice defense attorney can help you craft a defense for your unique case.
The Four C’s of Medical Malpractice Prevention
Regardless of the standard of care in any particular medical specialty, doctors and other healthcare professionals can reduce their risk of being accused of medical malpractice by adhering to the “Four C’s.”
One of the most common complaints against doctors that often lead to malpractice claims is that they do not care about their patients. Plaintiffs considering pursuing medical practice actions against their doctors may be more likely to do so when they view their doctors as cold, uncaring, rude, or dishonest. Doctors and other healthcare professionals can prevent those negative feelings by exercising compassion for their patients. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to display compassion. Doctors could display compassion, for example, by asking the patient plenty of questions, being honest with them, maintaining good eye contact, sharing personal anecdotes, and using the patient’s name whenever possible.
Another common complaint against doctors is that they often fail to communicate properly with patients. Communication issues are not merely logistical; breakdowns in communication can lead to errors, which can, in turn, lead to medical malpractice claims. For example, miscommunication can result in missed or delayed diagnoses, harmful side effects from improperly prescribed medications, and failure of patients to follow treatment plans. Productive communications between doctors and patients can include, but is not limited to:
- Listening to the patient’s concerns
- Explaining all of the patient’s options clearly and completely
- Ensuring that the patient understands the risks involved with the treatment
- Providing the patient with a written summary of what was discussed at each visit
- Checking in with the patient frequently
- Encouraging the patient to ask questions
For more communication-related strategies that can reduce the risk of medical malpractice suits, contact a North Carolina medical malpractice defense attorney.
It should go without saying that every doctor should be competent to practice medicine in their field of specialty. However, building and maintaining competence in the medical field, like other professions, is an ongoing project. It requires doctors and other healthcare professionals to stay up to date on the latest developments, technologies, and standards of care within their practices. Competence is also not only about knowing what you know — it is about knowing what you don’t know. A competent doctor knows the limits of his or her capabilities and when to refer a patient to a colleague with the proper expertise. And even doctors at the peak of their careers should double-check their work for mistakes.
Charting is a vital tool in the administration of healthcare and an equally vital tool when defending against accusations of medical malpractice. Proper charting documents a patient’s medical history, consultation notes, progress notes, procedure notes, medications, allergies, and communications with the patient, among many other data points. Charts are particularly important in medical malpractice litigation because, while memories fade, medical records do not and often become crucial pieces of evidence in such litigation. Proper charting does not prevent doctors from making mistakes, but it can significantly minimize the risk.
Fight Allegations of Medical Malpractice With Help From a North Carolina Medical Malpractice Defense Attorney
Allegations of medical malpractice, even if frivolous, can seriously damage a doctor’s reputation. If you have been accused of malpractice, you should act swiftly to preserve your reputation and safeguard your practice. For more information about preventing and defending against medical malpractice claims, contact a North Carolina medical malpractice defense attorney at Harris, Creech, Ward & Blackerby by calling 252-638-6666 or using our online contact form.