Preventing Malpractice Lawsuits

The importance of prevention is a concept that most physicians stress with their patients as a way of avoiding painful and debilitating conditions. Well the same can be said for practitioners, especially when it comes to the stress that can come to your office and personal life in the event of malpractice allegations. At The Institute for Podiatric Excellence and Development (IPED) our members have a wealth of experience dealing with patients and outcomes; both favorable and unfavorable. Most podiatric practitioners, despite their efforts to provide the very best care to all their patients, are likely to face a malpractice suit at one point or another. Experienced foot doctors will tell you, however, that there are steps you can take to protect yourself from malpractice claims. In the vast majority of malpractice suits, one of the following reasons is the spark that ignites a litigation firestorm:

  • Failure to adequately communicate. This breakdown can occur with the patient, their family, colleagues in the office, staff members or other healthcare professionals. Try to get your patients to repeat what you’ve told them in their own words and be sure to end your exams with: “Is there anything you don’t understand about what I’ve told you?”
  • Failure to implement and maintain consistent and fail-proof systems in your office for tracking diagnostic and other test results, referrals, missed appointments and patient calls.
  • Failure to refer a patient to a specialist for consultation and testing in a timely manner.
  • Failure to obtain informed consent for procedures—this should not be an issue if adequate communication is in place.
  • Failure to document. Although this may not be a primary reason that people initiate a lawsuit, if there is doubt about the health care received and then the patient discovers inconsistent or altered documentation or the practice is unable to provide answers to objective questions regarding items such as dates of treatment or appointments, it may add “fuel to the fire” of suspicion in a patient’s mind.

In difficult times it is good to have others to turn to, especially those who have walked the road you are on. Sharing information and experience is one of the cornerstones of our mission at IPED. To find out if a membership in our organization is right for you, contact us at: info@podiatricexcellence.org.