Preemptive actions can limit a physician’s exposure to litigation

To err is human. So the question is not whether a medical malpractice lawsuit will be filed against a physician, but when.
As physicians pick their way through this minefield, if they’re not careful, one lawsuit from one patient could define their entire career, and lead to a loss of revenue, increased insurance costs and a massive hit to a physician’s professional reputation.

Bob White, chief operating officer of malpractice insurer TDC Group, says that some specialists such as neurosurgeons or obstetricians can spend as much as 25% of their career with an open malpractice suit against them.

“The sheer psychological fatigue that that creates for them is no small distraction for folks who’ve gone through it,” he said.

There are actions physicians can take to reduce their exposure to litigation.

Document as much as possible

The standard defense to lawsuits for years has been to maintain proper documentation, which White says has been greatly helped by the widescale adoption of electronic health records, but there are still limitations.

“There’s a finite amount of time that someone has to document things and we try to be practical when we talk to doctors about how to document, especially when a patient or the patient’s family is having difficulty in accepting the outcome of treatment,” he says.

Matt Gracey, former CEO of medical malpractice insurer Danna-Gracey and managing director of risk management firm Risk Strategies, says any lawsuit filed can become a much greater headache for the physician if patient records are not accurate, clear and timely.

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