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In today’s litigious society, malpractice lawsuits are a constant risk for doctors. You may think that everyone is entitled to the occasional mistake, but that old adage doesn’t apply to doctors simply because a medical mistake could cost a life. But, surprisingly, most malpractice lawsuits are filed, not because of an error, but because of miscommunication. Therefore, all doctors, even the very best, should take steps to minimize their risk for malpractice claims. Get started with the following tips:

  • Explain and educate: With so much new information (full of medical jargon), it’s common for patients to forget much of what they’ve been told if the explanation is hurried. Take the time to fully explain a patient’s diagnosis and educate the patient on what treatment will involve, including medications and follow-up visits. It may help to have the patient repeat back the instructions to ensure their understanding.

  • Reiterate instructions: Communication is so important that delivering written instructions to a patient is a valuable way to reiterate and document the explanation that you already delivered verbally. Similarly, if you find it difficult to offer the initial explanation in layman’s terms, you can ask a peer with stronger communication skills to talk to a patient in a more relatable manner. This is a great time for a patient to ask questions to expand his or her understanding of the information.

  • Build up trust: A patient who trusts his or her doctor is less likely to sue. To build that trust, thoroughly review a patient’s chart previous to an appointment so you’re informed before walking in the door. Electronic health records (EHRs) are coded with a timestamp that shows how long you spent reviewing a file, which can be damaging in court if you didn’t spend adequate time reading over the information before treatment.

  • Follow up: If a patient misses an appointment, a doctor’s practice should have protocols for following up with that patient to reschedule. This minimizes the risk of charges of neglect.

  • Be kind and compassionate: Perhaps the most important tip, kindness and compassion can help a patient through a tough time, making them less likely to take their frustrations out on you. Something as simple as making a note about a patient’s child, pet or hobby so you can ask him or her questions at the following visit can remind an ill patient that you’re not the bad guy.
Though your risks may be few, they can still result in a lawsuit. Call Mitchell & Mitchell Insurance Agency at (415) 883-2525 for more information on California malpractice insurance.
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