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Medical Malpractice - Avoid Claims and Lawsuits

Updated on November 16, 2009
Reduce medical malpractice claims and lawsuits at your hospital.
Reduce medical malpractice claims and lawsuits at your hospital.

Among the most common causes of medical malpractice claims against hospitals and physicians are patient falls, errors made during treatment or surgery, infections caused by poor hygiene control, incorrect diagnosis, failure to detect a medical condition, and medication errors. With the current administration in Washington coddling malpractice lawyers by refusing to include tort reform in the health care reform legislation, the burden of defending against medical malpractice lawsuits is not going to disappear soon. There are, however, steps that hospital management can take, to improve its risk control programs and reduce the possibility of errors and accidents, and thus reduce the potential for malpractice claims. This article will highlight the basic first steps.

Hire a consulting firm with recognized expertise in hospital loss prevention.
Hire a consulting firm with recognized expertise in hospital loss prevention.

Identify weak areas

Hire an outside consulting firm with recognized expertise in hospital loss prevention and risk management methods. Hospitals are among the most complex types of organizations to manage. Besides providing medical care, hospitals must provide services expected of a hotel (restaurant meals, linen service, housekeeping, facility and equipment maintenance), with the management skills of expected of any business (staffing, financing, invoicing, marketing, accounting). Such diverse functions require professionals with extensive experience who can survey all your operations and identify weak areas.

Work with your on-staff Risk Manager and your insurance broker to identify top-notch risk consultants who specialize in hospitals and clinics. Once you make a selection, develop a survey scope of work that reviews the myriad facets of your operation. Include a review of medical protocols and procedures for all departments; hiring and staffing procedures; insurance coverages and risk transfer practices; patient management practices; quality assurance program; patient communication systems; in-service employee training; claims handling procedures; and written recordkeeping. Review the recommendations of the risk management consultant and focus attention on improving those areas that cause the most number of medical malpractice claims.

Obtain accreditation

Obtain accreditation through The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JACHO). JACHO sets standards for medical care providers and awards accreditation to those that meet or exceed the standards. Winning and maintaining accreditation through JACHO is a rigorous, ongoing process because JACHO performs periodic on-site surveys to ensure the medical provider continues to comply with standards and makes efforts to improve. JACHO has developed state-of-the-art medical service delivery and quality assurance programs. Meet these standards and your hospital will remain at the forefront of patient care expertise.

Perform a claims analysis.
Perform a claims analysis.

Claims analysis

Perform a claims analysis and trend review. Conducting a claims review often provides two opportunities: (1) to establish an early warning system to identify problems before frequent, small incidents suddenly blossom into a large, expensive medical malpractice claim; and (2) gain insight into the key factors that are causing the majority of your frequent or expensive claims. Once you have this information, put it to work. Change or improve policies and procedures that are not effective. Forecast newly emerging risks and establish long-term programs that will mitigate or eliminate them. Develop strategies that will help you reduce claims overall.

Staff priviledges

Develop stringent requirements for granting staff privileges to non-employee physicians and other licensed allied medical providers. At some hospitals, up to 90% of physicians are not salaried employees. Although the physicians carry their own medical malpractice insurance, hospitals are usually named as well in a law suit under the doctrine of corporate negligence. Conduct rigorous background checks and license reviews for all physicians who request staff privileges. Ensure their licenses are current and “clean”, that they do not have an inordinate amount of claims or complaints lodged against them, and that they have a satisfactory reputation among their peers. Establish an active peer review committee to review all staff requests and give their advice and recommendations appropriate scrutiny. Finally, ensure all staff physicians carry a minimum amount of malpractice insurance coverage. Obtain certificates of insurance and review these carefully.


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    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 5 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      I see ads from lawyers on TV who claim metal on metal hip devices (or that seems to me to be the message) are a bad design. How come?

      Good hub.

    • profile image

      DePuy Pinnacle Lawsuit 6 years ago

      There have been a lot of scrutinization about the DePuy Pinnacle hip implant. Let's see them avoid the claims and lawsuits filed by those injured from the said device.