Data shows approximately half of all physicians will face a medical malpractice lawsuit at some point during their professional career. Top causes for a lawsuit include a failure to diagnose an illness or a poor outcome after a medical procedure.
Medical professionals can reduce the risk by taking proactive steps. Three examples include:
- Keep clear records. It is important to keep clear records on interactions with patients. A physician can likely use this information to help defend against allegations of wrongdoing. Physicians are often wise to include their subjective findings, assessment and plan for the patient after the appointment.
- Review electronic health records (EHR). Unfortunately, the EHR is not always a clear reflection of patient care. A physician should review the accuracy of all notes included in the record, including dictated notes. It is important to do so immediately after seeing the patient. It is unwise to make any changes after receiving notification of a lawsuit.
- Provide clear communication. It is important for physicians to communicate clearly both with the patient and with other medical professionals that are involved in the patient’s care. When communicating with the patient, clearly discuss potential risks for treatment and alternatives. For other medical professionals, clear medical records, as noted above, can help to better ensure everyone involved in providing patient care has the information they need to provide treatment.
One of the most important things physicians can do when they are facing a lawsuit is to take the matter seriously. Once they receive a complaint, or the initial notification of the medical malpractice lawsuit, it is generally wise to reach out for legal counsel after informing your medical malpractice insurance provider. It is best to act promptly, as these are time sensitive documents.