Medical negligence claims can be enormously costly and stressful for those working in clinical environments. Even if they’re ultimately unsuccessful, they can harm the reputation of the institution, and all of the doctors attached to it.
And yet, medical negligence legislation exists for a reason. It’s there to provide the profession with an incentive to be proactive. By regularly assessing the risks, and taking steps to limit them, we can often hugely reduce the likelihood of a claim being brought. In the process, we can also hugely improve the quality of care for patients.
So how do you protect the practice against claims of this sort?
A significant portion of medical negligence claims results from administrative error. If files aren’t properly updated, it doesn’t matter how competent the doctor is: they’ll be vulnerable to acting on faulty information. Having procedures in place to keep things up to date will offset this effect.
As well as reducing the likelihood of an error, proper administration will provide crucial evidence in the event that a claim is brought. Written records tend to go a long way in a courtroom. These records should make mention of potential alternative treatments which were proposed to the patient but rejected. Medical negligence solicitors will hone in on any gaps in the paper-trail. Make sure that there aren’t any.
All employees should be properly trained in their chosen field, and possess the qualifications needed to prove it. Of course, training isn’t something that simply ends the moment that a person earns a doctorate. It should instead be an ongoing process. Procedures regarding hygiene and tidiness can often have just as big an impact on the likelihood of a claim than any kind of specialised medical expertise.
When we mark our own homework, there’s a temptation to gloss over areas of weakness. In many cases, we might do this without knowing it. Being critiqued by a colleague might create the wrong incentives. Moreover, it might create resentment that lasts for months or even years. By bringing in an external, disinterested party to assess the organisation, you’ll know that the feedback comes from the right place, and isn’t being distorted by any kind of internal politics.
In many cases, speaking with the patient can help staff to identify potential errors before they have the chance to become big ones. Checking patient records prior to major treatment, and talking to the patient, can provide a means of spotting any incongruity. This is where soft communication skills come into play. An informal chat can help to set the patient at ease, but it can also put them in a position where they’re comfortable volunteering information.