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How to Avoid Medical Malpractice Suit Dr. Alia Al-Alawi.

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Presentation on theme: "How to Avoid Medical Malpractice Suit Dr. Alia Al-Alawi."— Presentation transcript:

1 How to Avoid Medical Malpractice Suit Dr. Alia Al-Alawi

2 The Internet age has led to more informed patients who are assertive of their legal rights and are also more willing to sue for any perceived sub-standard care

3 Fear of lawsuits changed the way doctors practice medicine Defensive medicine Psychological burden on physicians



6 Chance of being sued 1 in 5 Avoid medical error best way to avoid law suit 70% of adverse outcomes are preventable

7 Medical malpractice-definition Medical malpractice: Deviation from standard of care Standard of care: What a reasonably prudent medical provider would or would not have done under the same or similar circumstances

8 Medical malpractice-definition Doctor not reasonably skilful or competent Patient harmed with this incompetence

9 Medical malpractice-legal elements 1.Professional duty owed to the patient 2.Breach of such duty 3.Injury caused by the breach 4.Resulting damages

10 Basic requirements for claim A doctor-patient relationship existed The doctor was negligent The doctor’s negligence caused injury The injury led to specific damages Physical pain Mental anguish Additional medical bills Lost work and lost earning capacity

11 Medical malpractice- common types Failure to diagnose Improper treatment Failure to warn a patient of a known risk

12 Medical negligence-diagnosis Did the doctor act competently What the doctor did or did not do in arriving at the diagnosis Differential diagnosis method used by the doctor

13 Medical negligence- diagnosis Doctor will be considered negligent if: Correct diagnosis wasn’t included in D.D. Correct diagnosis was included but doctor failed to perform test or seek help of other specialists

14 Diagnostic mistakes Wrong diagnosis Missed diagnosis Delayed diagnosis Failure to identify complications Failure to diagnose related disease Failure to diagnose unrelated disease


16 How to avoid lawsuit Communicate Document System

17 Listen to the patient, he’s telling you the diagnosis Sir William Osler 1904

18 Why listen 20-60% of lawsuits linked to ineffective communication Listening increases patient satisfaction Errors occur when physicians don’t stop and listen and instead rely on battery of tests

19 Hazards of not listening When clinicians lack communication skills − Ability to gather information compromised − Failure to engage patients in their own care − Order of wasteful tests or treatments − More likely to be involved in malpractice claims

20 No time to care 68% of residents spent more than 4 hours daily on documentation < 40% spent that much time in direct contact with patients Arch Intern Med 2010

21 Communication Breakdown at times 80% forgotten Half of remaining 20% remembered correctly 2509 closed claims from 2007 to 2012 communication a factor in 21% of all the cases

22 Role of empathy Physicians with high empathy scores Higher rate of favorable clinical outcome Contribute to patients satisfaction, trust, compliance Hojat, Jefferson medical college

23 Who is not being sued Physicians who – Orient the patient to the process – Encourage patients to tell their stories – Ask patients their opinion – Let patients know they are listening – Use humor and laugh – Have slightly longer visits Levinson et al. JAMA, 1997;277

24 Who is not being sued Physicians who – Orient the patient to the process – Encourage patients to tell their stories – Ask patients their opinion – Let patients know they are listening – Use humor and laugh – Have slightly longer visits Levinson et al. JAMA 1997;277

25 Avoid asking the patient yes-or-no questions

26 What comes around goes around Do not speak ill of your colleagues

27 Beware of sirens Flattery Comparison to “Incompetent physicians”

28 Disclosure/ Apology An appropriate, well crafted timely apology is just one part of effective disclosure discussion, but often the most meaningful to the patient and family

29 Challenging patient Don’t argue Remove away from audience Find out what patient actually expect from you Clarify expectations

30 If doctors are consistent with apologizing for small things I’m sorry you had to wait today I’m sorry the injection hurts more this time I’m sorry you are having more pain from your arthritis It will be easier to say I’m sorry for a more significant occurrence

31 No one size fits all Empathetic apology Admission apology


33 Do not disclose Self critical analysis Peer review activities Disciplinary action Your opinion that someone else is at fault

34 Failure to follow up test results 75% of physicians didn’t routinely notify patients of normal test results 33% didn’t always notify patients of abnormal test results

35 Avoid traditional “No news is good news”

36 How to avoid lawsuit Communicate Document System

37 Medical record Method of clinical communication and care planning among physicians and health care providers Protection of legal interest of patient, health care providers and the facility Bases for evaluating quality of care Clinical data for research and education

38 Medical record After patient’s care is completed, the only evidence that remains of what occurred takes the form of word descriptions written into the medical record These word descriptions will be used to reconstruct the pattern of care

39 Medical record Accurate Credible Professional Present a clear picture of events Document the thought process for the plan of care

40 Medical record- Credibility Timely and accurate documentation Damage credibility: – Destroy Record – Rewrite record

41 Medical record Document what you did not do Algorithms and standard of care for diagnosis and treatment Document missed or cancelled appointments

42 Medical record Do not speak ill of the patient

43 How to avoid lawsuit Communicate Document System

44 It’s not all about the Doctor Law suits come about solely owing to physician’s error

45 Medical Error- A Team Effort

46 The staff are the first face of practice that the patient sees Patients evaluate doctors competence and level of caring as a physician far differently than the physicians themselves do

47 Patients lack medical knowledge Did I get better? Do they care about me? Did the doctor and staff project confidence?

48 Why do patients sue? Anger Dissatisfaction with their treatment Want answers but no one will talk to them Unhappy with the staff or provider attitude Want revenge or retaliation Entitlement attitude

49 Put in place a tracking system for test results Don't allow the patient to sign a consent form if he or she still has questions for the doctor waiting room hospitality Give patient satisfaction surveys, asking about every aspect of their appointment and visit Pay attention to the "challenging patient”

50 Waiting room hospitality Assign staff member Monitor wait times Inform patients of expected long waits Make sure waiting room experience is comfortable Current reading material Comfortable temperature Water, tea and coffee

51 Satisfaction survey Doctors with most satisfied patients had least lawsuits Doctors with middle group of patient satisfaction- 26% more lawsuits Doctors with least satisfied patients -110% more lawsuits

52 Perfection not possible For every medical intervention there is an expected outcome. But there is also the possibility of unintended consequences While it is comforting to believe that modern science can perform miracles, the reality is that human bodies often react in unpredictable ways- even when the treatment is standardized and evidence based

53 Not every adverse outcome involves an error but every unexpected outcome warrants an explanation – Unanticipated outcome without error – Unanticipated but known complication not timely diagnosed – Unanticipated outcome with medical error

54 Risk management highlights Communicate, Communicate, Communicate Document, Document, Document System, System, System

55 Advice from other doctors Follow up even when you think you don’t have to Practice more defensive medicine Document more often, more thoroughly Get rid of rude, demanding, non-compliant patients

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