Medical Malpractice Risk Management
Malpractice in the medical field is defined as professional negligence on the part of the doctor. In this case, the doctor fails to provide the right medical care according to the set standards of the profession. As a result of the malpractice the patient may end up dead or injured due to the medical error that was committed. Medical malpractices results into litigations that usually cost a lot of money to the health care providers. However, the risks posed by malpractices can be observed and managed to avoid litigations in the future.
Health care has become a common topic in the US today, especially with the introduction of the new insurance laws, which makes the provision of medical care affordable to many. It has also allowed the provision of medical care to children with pre-existing conditions. This has brought to light the issue of malpractice, which initially had been treated with such low priority. Today, many states have suffered from huge compensation being awarded to plaintiffs who sue medical practitioners. Malpractices are now evidently posing a financial risk to many hospitals and health care providers. Therefore, a solution must be found by health care providers to reduce the rate of these malpractices. This can be done by properly managing the risk of this errors occurring by monitoring activities in the hospitals.
Medical malpractices can be avoided by taking up insurance cover on the part of the health care givers, as it use to happen in the earlier times when malpractice cases were not common. Today, the situation has changed. Insurance companies are no longer been able to cover the sums awarded in courts. They have increased the premiums payable by doctors thus making insurance unaffordable. The availability of coverage has also reduced; insurance companies are in fear of providing cover, because it might lend them bankrupt.
Malpractices litigation occurs after the patients or the family of the victim realizes that the health care giver did not perform as per the standards. The first step in the litigation is usually to file the suit. After this the plaintiff, who is the aggrieved must proof that negligence was practiced in the part of the doctor. This is done by getting referrals from other doctors who ascertain that the care given was indeed short of the standards. The state under a judge or a jury then determines if there was negligence on the part of the doctor and accesses the damages suffered. Finally, the damages are awarded in the form of money payable to the plaintiff by the defendant.
The law that governs these litigations about medical malpractice is usually under the state and not the federal government. This law is also a tort law that involves two parties. These are the defendant and the plaintiff. Many states have been trying to reform the laws governing medical litigations because of the money the States ends up losing. The fact that this laws are under the State, they tend to differ from one State to another. While some States have been able to protect their doctors, others have failed in the attempt. Another problem that these litigations bring about is that doctors resolve to practicing defensive medicine. This way they do not expose themselves to risks of litigations.
Recently, the republicans have been trying to nationalize the medical malpractice law. This is intended to go hand in hand with the new health care policy, about everyone buying a health policy. The bill is intended to lift the law from the States and transfer it under the federal government. This will reduce the different treatment that the law is given in different States. It will also be able to regulate the amounts that are given out as damages in the malpractice cases, thus reducing the costs that are being incurred by the States.
The implementation of new laws that will protect the health care giver may take longer than expected. Also after being enacted they might not reduce the costs incurred in the in medical malpractices. Relying on insurance cover may not be adequate; therefore companies must come up with strategies that will manage the risk they face. This is called risk management. Risk management is a way or plan taken to reduce loss. It can also be referred to as the process where risks that face a company are identified and prioritized so as to reduce their impact. In risk management all resources are directed toward minimizing the occurrence of the risk in hand and therefore reducing the loss incurred.
The goal of risk management in healthcare is usually to reduce harm that is caused to the patients. This way a hospital can reduce the chances of litigations when less harm is inflicted .The other goal is to reduce the exposure of the practitioners to liability cases. The third goal is to reduce the impact of the litigation process to the health care givers. The fourth goal is to reduce the amount of financial risk that the hospitals get exposed to during malpractices litigations.
Risk management used to avoid medical liability takes three stages. The first step is to identify the risk, and the impacts of these risks. In this case, the risk is medical malpractice litigation. This risk will result to a financial risk on the part of the health care provider. The risk may also cause the loss of patients visiting the health centre. Another impact is, it may cause psychological trauma to the health care giver during the litigation process. For proper management of the risk these factors must be taken into consideration.
The second step is to identify ways in which this risk can be reduced or avoided. This is where the main issues of risk management are discussed and implemented. In avoiding or reducing the occurrence of malpractices the following strategies can be adopted by hospitals. These are; the hospital must define the set standards. These standards will act as a reminder of what is expected of the health care giver. With this, competency will be exercised and referrals given on time. Knowing of the standards may not be adequate so the hospital must keep reminding the practitioners of these standards. This can be done by frequent holding of seminars.
Another way of reducing malpractices is to make sure that there is effective communication. Communication is a key strategy in managing risks from medical liability, this is because lack of communication may cause occurrence of litigation. The health care givers must communicate well with the patients and make sure that consent to perform certain procedures is given. Communication is also important for the doctors, in that they can apologize properly to the family of the patients or patients which may save the doctor from being sued.
Monitoring of clinical services is another strategy that can be adopted to avoid risks. This can be done during the process of offering the services, where the chief officer may act as a supervisor to check whether the care givers are performing in accordance to the standards. During supervision, the supervisor should observe if the care givers are practicing professionalism in their daily activities. He should also monitor how they are interacting with the patients. Monitoring can help to detect a problem before it becomes a matter of legality.
Medical care givers must also ensure that they maintain quality. This is in both the service they give and in their competency. It is therefore upon the hospital to identify those issues that patients complain about. In every hospital there are always customers making complains about certain services that were not properly given. Therefore, it should be a priority of the hospital to take such matters seriously as they may result to litigations if not corrected. The solution to this is to frequently review this complains and put corrective measures as soon as the problem is identified.
Additionally, the strategy of proper documentation must be incorporated in reducing the risk of malpractices. In many malpractice cases, the healthcare givers have lost due to the lack of proper documentation. This documentation includes every communication that occurs between the patient and the doctor. No communication should be treated as less vital because it may become important later. Technology has tremendously helped in managing of records, where information can easily be related to making sure nothing is misplaced in the process.
The third step of risk management is assessing the impact of the risks. There are times when the risk management strategies will not be adequate. This, in turn, will cause the occurrence of litigation; it is still advisable to provide strategies to cope with such a situation. In this part there must be provisions for such litigations made, an example is taking up of insurance cover to take care of the financial risk. The health care facilities may also make provisions in their financial statements to cover for the occurrence of these financial risks.
The impact to the people must also be considered. This includes the doctors who are involved in the suits. They may find themselves losing their interest in practicing medicine again. They may also suffer from psychological trauma caused by the allegations that they face. It is upon the health facilities to protect their own in such times. In most cases, heath centers tend to disown their doctors when these doctors are sued. This should not occur and they should support their doctors especially in such hard times. The hospitals can provide guidance and counseling services during and after the trial.
Risk management is not a guarantee that the malpractice cases will not occur but it is used to reduce the rate of this cases. It only acts as a protective measure. It is also important for the State to stop the occurrence of this lawsuits because it may end up doing more harm than good. This is so especially for the doctors, they may fear to treat patients because of the repercussions of being sued. On the other hand, the patient may take advantage. This means that every loss of a patient, even if it is not due to negligence, the family may rush to file a suit.
Malpractices cause litigations that cause the defendant a lot of money. Insurance companies may not be able to provide for some of the amounts that are being awarded to the plaintiffs in these cases. They have, therefore, provided advice to the healthcare providers and hospitals to take up risk management strategies to curb these litigations. Risk management anticipates for the occurrence of the problem and comes up with solutions or ways to avoid these problems. In malpractice litigations, these strategies include proper communication, proper documentation and treating the patients with compassion and being empathetic. It is also important to note that risk management takes place in three stages, the identification of risk, avoidance of the risk and assessing the impact of the risk. Although risk management may seem like as an absolute solution, it is not, as it only acts as a protective measure and prepares the company and individuals for the risk.