Healthcare News & Insights

Malpractice suits: Lower your risk with honest and open communication

Do you know what patients report as the most important decision-making factor when they’re contemplating filing a lawsuit?

HealthLawIt’s poor doctor-patient communication. So if you want to lower your hospital’s  risk of malpractice lawsuits, promote better doctor-patient communication at all times.

The threat of lawsuits for medical mistakes creates a culture of secrecy and fear. Hospitals and physicians need to eliminate that threat by promoting open and honest doctor-patient communication, before AND after a medical mistake happens.

According to a study from The Journal of the American College of Surgeons, doctors who are sued have a higher rate of burnout, depression and suicide. And doctors who are depressed and/or burnt out, make a lot more medical mistakes than those who aren’t.

So stave off malpractice suits and your facility will have far fewer depressed/burnt out doctors and, therefore, fewer medical mistakes.

Plus doctors who take the time to talk to their patients and explain what’s going in a way patients understand better, create a relationship and bond with their patients. And patients who are bonded with their doctors are much less likely to sue them.

Explain the risks

It’s also important for patients to realize the risks involved in what they’re going through. Doctors need to clearly explain what can happen even when they do everything right.

For example, even when a colonoscopy is performed correctly, complications can occur, such as a bleed or a tear in the colon.

Another study from the New England Journal of Medicine examined nearly 1,500 malpractice claims and found 37% didn’t involve any medical errors.

However, if a physician does make an error, the last thing they should do is hide it. Hiding things, and keeping the patient and his or her family in the dark just breeds mistrust and anger.

What should be done: The physician should fully explain what happened, apologize for the mistake and, when necessary, the hospital should compensate the patient.

When patients and their families see the doctor is empathetic to their situation and truly sorry, they are more understanding.

That’s why some states have enacted laws protecting apologies from being used against a doctor in court. Now all states need to adopt such a law. Because when doctors are open about their mistakes, other physicians can learn from them and prevent future mishaps from occurring.



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