Healthcare News & Insights

Law & order: Keys to avoiding legal trouble at your facility

A lawsuit is one of the worst challenges a hospital can face. Although malpractice suits are often filed against specific providers, your facility may still be at risk of legal trouble – but there are ways to decrease that risk. 

Lawsuits could result from anything, including employee disputes, terminations or patient dissatisfaction. Disgruntled people may feel the need to take revenge through legal action, even if the infraction seems small.

One excellent strategy to avoid lawsuits: Take particular care with firing employees, and make sure every personnel decision is reasoned out and well-documented so no one can accuse your hospital of discrimination.

There are several other ways you can strengthen your legal standing and sidestep any pitfalls you may encounter.

Legal concerns

Physician’s Practice has four additional recommendations to reduce the risk of lawsuits at your facility:

  1. Write (or edit) your employee handbook. The documents that discuss your organization’s policies and procedures should address both federal and state laws. Different states have different requirements for maternity leave and overtime shifts, as well as how much notice you’re allowed to request if an employee takes a personal day or uses sick leave. Compliance issues can be fertile ground for lawsuits, so make sure your HR department writes all your policies in clear language that follows legal guidelines. You may even want to have your organization’s lawyers look over the handbook once in a while to highlight any issues.
  2. Address risk head-on. If you don’t already have a risk committee, consider forming one where staff members and providers can be active participants in determining high-risk areas. Focus on creating an environment where all employees, even low-level ones, are comfortable speaking to supervisors and other higher-ups about problems they notice. Risk management is best when everyone’s invested in it and has the opportunity to speak up about issues they’re seeing.
  3. Host huddle meetings. A meeting attended by the entire organization might not be as feasible at a large hospital, but even holding departmental huddles where all staff in each area run through their schedule and discuss potential challenges can help prepare staff for their shifts and mitigate any risks that could cause malpractice lawsuits.
  4. Keep patients in mind. Clear and effective communication between patients and providers is the most important way to avoid legal trouble. Patients need to know you’re committed to their health and taking their concerns seriously. Developing trust between providers and patients also means if they feel something’s wrong, they’ll be more willing to talk about it rather than jumping immediately to a lawsuit.

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