Lawsuits? I hear you. I received several questions about this in one form or the other. I don’t know how to deal with litigation. But I will tell you what I’ve been taught from the doctors I worked with in New York in a country that is litigation happy.
- Document Everything
This is the most important thing. Put everything down on your EMR. You’ve ordered a test, made a referral, awaiting results, suspecting something. Write down everything. Why? Because we don’t remember everything and when you put things down on paper, your treatment plans, your differentials, your thinking is clear on paper. Moreover it’s obvious that you as the physician did due diligence while working up the patient. It will help eliminate unnecessary litigation & will also act as evidence in court.
2. Communicate Well
Various insurance companies report that even with bad outcomes, patients respond favorably to doctors who are honest and open to communication. Don’t avoid rounds with patient relatives who are upset in a bid to avoid them. In fact, try to be there for them. Your presence speaks volumes.
If there has a been a missed diagnosis or an error in clinical judgement, a heartfelt apology goes a long way. Don’t shift blame, instead identify what went wrong and say sorry. It has been proven that patients are less likely to file lawsuits if doctors apologize after owning their errors.
4. Get Informed Consent
Surgical specialties face a ton of lawsuits and at the forefront of this is getting an informed consent. People need to be explained what they’re doing, the side effects, the consequences, the benefits and even the cost. Let them know everything. And as much as time is of the essence, it has to be the patient’s decision. Not yours.
Organize follow-ups. Post surgical follow-ups are always important. I understand that the onus is on the patient to show up but if you want to have good outcomes, follow-ups are crucial. It’s an extension of good clinical care.
6. Get Malpractice Insurance
Yes, while you do your best to avoid lawsuits, there are people who are just looking for an easy payday. So get this and your insurance provider will actually look at your practice and offer risk management strategies.
Medicine is not always black and white. There are times when we make crucial decisions in those crunch moments that can alter lives forever. If in doubt, ask some one for help. Your peers and superiors may be able to to identify the warning signs and help you out. Also the more people aware of the situation the better as collective decision making might have a more logical, thought out approach.