June 5, 2013

Helping Your Doctor Avoid Malpractice

by Levin & Perconti

Patients assume that doctors know what they are doing at all times. There is a tendency to trust doctor decisions without question, simply doing as one is told and expecting the outcome that the doctor says is likely.

But, as the hundreds of thousands of patient who suffer at the hands of medical errors know--doctors are not perfect. In the heat of a workday they may misread a test, fail to wash their hands, prescribe the wrong dosage of a medication, or otherwise take steps that will cause patients more harm. Understanding the prevalence of preventable errors, many advocates encourage patients be proactive in their healthcare. There are things that patients can do on a consistent basis which may allow an error to be caught before it causes harm.

For example, well-known TV doctors Oz and Roizen recently shared information on way to help your doctor avoid a misdiagnosis. The tips provided in the story are worth reading, as misdiagnosis remains one of the most common forms of medical malpractice. The article reminds that “39 percent of U.S. malpractice payments are for nondiagnosis or an incorrect or delayed one.” Even more, “of all medical mistakes, diagnostic errors appear to be the most common, most costly, and most dangerous.”

What can patients do?

The doctors in the article note that one of the main ways that patients can help identify misdiangosis is by asking questions and not simply “going with the flow.” For example, ensure that you leave the facility by knowing what other diagnoses the doctor could have made and why he ruled them out. By asking the doctor about this, you force him or her to think through their thought process one more time, potentially catching a lapse in judgment or a mental oversight.

In addition, they recommend being proactive about test results. There is no need to always wait for the doctor to call you about test results. Calling in to see if they have arrived is appropriate, especially if you are given a general timeline for the process. In this way, you can ensure timely response to adverse test results. There are many examples of test results that are lost or ignored, resulting in delayed diagnosis with serious consequences

It is also important to ensure proper collaboration between doctors. You may be seeing different specialists for various issues--this is particularly common for the elderly who have different medical concerns at once. Ensure that these professionals each have copies of your full medical records, test results, medications, and diagnoses. Many issues interact with one another, and so it is dangerous to have doctor issue opinions in isolation.

Make no mistake: Even if patient does not say or do anything proactive, doctors are required to act reasonably at all times when providing medical care. It is almost never appropriate for a doctor to excuse his error by claiming that a patient didn’t help out. The law requires doctors to meet reasonable standards of care at all times; when they fail to do so they are liable for damages caused. For help understanding how these rules apply in your case, please contact our med mal attorneys today.

See Other Blog Posts:

A Stoplight Approach to Patient Safety

Back to the Basics: Understanding Medical Malpractice