By Cher Zavala
When you’re busy running or working in a plastic surgery practice, the days go by quickly and you’re often struggling to fit everything in on the job, as well as give yourself some downtime, too. However, amid the busyness, it is also very important that you and your team do everything you can to ensure patients are kept safe and well at all times, so that no instances of medical malpractice occur. These days, it is easier than ever for people to hire a personal injury attorney, so you need to safeguard your practice.
As well, while you might think it won’t happen to you, statistics show that many thousands of deaths and injuries occur each year which are caused by medical malpractice, and which could have been avoided. Read on for the lowdown on medical malpractice and how you can best protect your business today.
Definition of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice refers to negligence by a medical professional. When a healthcare provider (usually a physician, although nurses and some other industry workers can also be found guilty) deviates from the recognized “standard of care” when treating a patient, they may be liable for medical malpractice. The “standard of care” is considered to be the actions which a prudent medical provider would do (or not do) under the same or similar circumstances.
What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice
There are specific requirements in place for an act, or lack of a service, to be considered medical malpractice according to the law. Different jurisdictions across the country can have different legalities in place, too. For starters, though, medical malpractice is generally seen as having occurred if the negligence or fraudulent behavior of a healthcare provider has caused injury, other damage, or death to a patient.
There are a few factors involved in proving medical malpractice in court. For a plaintiff (usually a patient, but sometimes family members or others) to establish that malpractice occurred, they must typically prove that the healthcare worker had a duty to deliver care to the patient, and that negligence or fraud was involved. Furthermore, this behavior must also have directly resulted in an injury or harm to the patient.
If a minor mistake was made by a practitioner, but no harm or injury came to the patient (eg, if the wrong person received an x-ray or MRI), it is highly unlikely that a medical malpractice suit would ever go ahead. While some cases are quite easy for the plaintiff to prove in court, many others are not so clear cut.
As well, while experiencing a bad outcome from a procedure, other care, or a lack of intervention is a requirement for a medical malpractice suit to go forward, it is important to understand that bad outcomes aren’t necessarily always proof of negligence either.
Be aware, too, that the statutes of limitation — that is, the time frames in which a lawsuit must be filed or permanently barred — tend to differ between the states, so people should seek guidance from a personal injury attorney in San Antonio, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, or anywhere else across the country they may be based where the alleged malpractice happened.
As well, the procedural requirements in place that have to be met before a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed can also vary from area to area.
Types of Malpractice
When it comes to medical malpractice, deaths and injuries can be caused from a wide variety of errors and other negligence. Some of the most common issues, though, that crop up regularly, are:
- Improper or delayed treatment (particularly of issues such as cancer or infections);
- Surgical errors;
- Injuries occurring during birth;
- The misinterpretation of lab test results, x-rays, or other diagnostic tools; or
- The failure to diagnose serious conditions.
Tips for Your Practice
There are a number of tips you can follow to help decrease the chances of you or your practice coming under fire. For starters, concentrate on communicating with patients and among practitioners. This not only helps to keep mistakes from happening, but also helps to reduce the likelihood that a patient will sue if an issue occurs. A sincere apology, if a practitioner is at fault, can also go a long way to preventing future claims.
Another tip is to ensure that consent is always given by a patient for all procedures, and that they have a full understanding of the risks involved. In addition, it pays to:
- Conduct comprehensive follow-up with patients;
- Have a rigorous set of policies and procedures in place to reduce the likelihood of errors; and
- Ensure that all practitioners stay up to date on their training and on medical standards.
While you need to do everything you can to ensure your practice is safe from medical malpractice claims, you might feel better knowing that statistically, the prosecution of these types of cases has a high instance of failure, and they’re very expensive and time-consuming. As such, only a small amount of the personal-injury lawsuits which are filed in the US each year involve medical malpractice claims, and of those which do, the majority of them end with no payment required to the injured party or their survivors.
Cher Zevala is a content coordinator specializing in topics associated with the healthcare industry and innovations in the healthcare field. She is also a contributing writer to Plastic Surgery Practice. For more information, contact [email protected].