How hospitals can avoid medical malpractice suits

By maria collazo

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and the number of medical malpractice suits filed each year is more than 85,000.

Among fatal medical injuries, 12,000 individuals die during an unnecessary surgery and 7,000 from medication errors, according to our sister publication Healthcare Global.

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With prescription mistakes and procedures not going as planned being the primary causes of medical malpractice suits, here are ways to prevent said causes and strengthen your institution.

Issue: unnecessary surgeries

In general, unnecessary or routine surgeries where medical malpractice exists, there are usually either underlying causes or anomalies that occur that play into the final outcome.

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In the event of Joan Rivers’ endoscopy, it came to light that an unscheduled and unapproved biopsy may have been completed during the surgery. In addition, a number of physicians indulged in a photo opportunity with the star under anesthesia.

Resolution: Implement quality control procedures

To avoid medical malpractice suits relating to "unnecessary" surgeries, implement a quality control procedure whereby every patient undergoing such a procedure will be visited by an objective third party to obtain answers to a short survey questionnaire after their procedure.

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It may seem counterintuitive to question patients regarding their experience after the fact, but in the event that their condition worsens over time, their answers can be used to help any forensic investigation by your hospital or other legal authorities.

Their answers will also help on an immediate basis regardless of the outcome, purely as a barometer of the patient care experience in your hospital. Patterns of substandard care, either by a certain member of staff or as part of a badly designed process, can be addressed before they lead to a medical malpractice suit.

Issue: medication errors

More than 7,000 fatalities are linked to medication errors and it’s probable that such mistakes could be connected to overworked and tired staff that overlooks important details.

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Resolution: assign an oversight department

To help prevent medication errors due to time shortages or overly-tired doctors and nurses, assign an oversight department that is in charge of monitoring and enforcing maximum working shifts for attending staff.

This one change could drastically reduce the number of medication errors in your hospital, thereby reducing your medical malpractice exposure.

Staying focused on patient care is the number one factor that can contribute the most to avoiding medical malpractice. If you can get everyone on board with that concept, you'll see better results immediately.

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