Litigation, such an ugly experience. One we would prefer to avoid at all costs. But as unsavory as this experience may be, it has come for a lot of doctors, with varying results.
Yes, you may win the legal fight, but in the process, you most likely would lose a lot of money, a lot of time, some face and probably get a huge dent in your reputation. Then, if the court finds you guilty, you might lose much more than just your reputation. Your license might even be revoked!
Irrespective of the outcome, litigation is something the average medical doctor would want to avoid. In this article, we will be giving you some practical tips that will drastically reduce the chances of a disgruntled patient dragging you to court (and help you sail through if you eventually are sued). So pay close attention, because this info might just save your license.
In a court of law, a lot of times if it is not documented, it is assumed not to exist. In other words, to keep clear from prospective trouble, every doctor managing a patient should ensure that relevant details of the doctor-patient interaction are documented. This makes it very easy for another doctor to take over the management of your patient.
On another point, it is much easier to defend against allegations of negligence when you have records and notes to back up the fact that you managed the patient to the best of your ability. Proper documentation is the first step in avoiding litigation.
Nothing leaves a patient feeling more neglected than bad communication. Do not be that doctor that talks above the head of the patient. You have to make the patient feel valued and respected. And one very simple but also very efficient way of doing this is a discussion.
Do you want to start a new therapy or have you noticed some complications? Is there's an upturn in prognosis? Discuss all these issues with the patient. Then address the issues the patients might raise. The principle of this is that a patient who has a healthy rapport with the doctor is less likely to drag the same doctor to court or listen to advice telling them to sue your doctor.
A thorough consultation ensures that no aspect of the patient's condition goes unnoticed. Perhaps, there's comorbidity that might complicate the course of treatment. Proper consultation helps to identify silent threats.
Say It As It Is
Do not exaggerate details of a procedure in a bid to provide sugar coating for patients. If the procedure you are about to perform is risky, let them know the exact degree of risk. If this is your first time performing this kind of operation, let them know that this is your first time. This way, if you obtain consent from them, that consent would have been given from a place of proper understanding of the situation.
Handling Insurance Issues
Sometimes, the patient's health insurance plan may not cover the treatment plan you had for them. When this happens, do not conceal this option from the patient. They should have a full range of treatment options, as well as the physician's recommendations. This way, if a treatment plan is rejected due to insufficient insurance coverage, it would be the patient's call, and there would be no need for a lawsuit.
Attend To The Patient Physically
In some cases, over phone management is all but inevitable. But as much as you can, make sure that you establish physical proximity with the patient of regular occasions. Some diagnoses can be made just based on physical examination, and it is very hard for the jury (which is usually made up of non-doctors) to understand why a doctor is not physically present to take care of his patient.
Keep Your Hands Above Board
Doctors are professional whom people whole in high regard. The standards for doctors are usually higher than most other professions because of the critical nature of their work. Having this in mind, you have to take care that not only is your choice of therapy very objective, it must be apparent that your decisions do not carry the taint of personal gain but are purely for the good of the patient.
In summary, lawsuits are like thunderstorms. You might not be able to easily anticipate them. But if you build a nice cosy shelter beforehand, when the storm hits, you'll be home and dry.