Avoiding the Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If there is one fear that all clinicians have in common, regardless of specialty or training, it's the fear of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Even a claim devoid of all merit can potentially cost you in terms of time and energy, and shake your professional confidence.
A host of strategies exist to minimize this risk for clinicians and help them protect their patients from such an equally miserable experience. After all, in a medmal lawsuit, there are no winners.
Just a loser and a bigger loser, as they say on HIPPO urgent care RAP.
I recently had the privilege of speaking with PA Robert Blumm about this exact issue for the Clinician1 Podcast, which is no longer available, unfortunately. However, I've summarized our conversation here.
He tells me the story of a difficult diagnosis and what was done to prevent harm to the patient in question. Learn his tips for keeping yourself out of medicolegal trouble below.
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A Medicolegal Landmine Hiding in Plain Sight
It's Monday morning and to nobody's surprise, you are slammed. It's only 10 o'clock in the morning and you already feel like you will never catch up. There are six patients waiting out front and three in the examination rooms. And you are the only clinician there until the afternoon. “I definitely get paid enough for this,” you sarcastically think to yourself. “At least they cover my medical malpractice insurance.”
Luckily enough, the next patient is a slam dunk. A gentleman with five days of coughing and a low-grade temperature by history. He was also exposed to a bunch of gross stuff that makes you queasy just hearing it.
Sick contacts hacking up undifferentiated sputum. Air travel. Which means airplane tray tables that haven't been cleaned since they left the tray table factory thirty years ago. The recycled air of hundreds of strangers.
Easy-peasy, right? Diagnose him with bronchitis and tell him to have a nice life once the ‘supportive treatment' kicks in. NEXT!
The Best Way to Reduce Your Chances of Liability
You know the importance of slowing down, taking your time, and thinking about each patient in front of you. Yes, even if you have ten more on the assembly line outside. I know how unfair it is to say this.
And you'll be lucky to get any corporate sympathy, depending on your work environment.
Because if you aren't producing, there is no room for feelings when the bottom line matters most. It's not necessarily the suits' fault; if their clinicians don't bring in revenue, everyone ends up out of a job.
As a good clinician, maybe you tune that out when you are with patients. You know that missing a critical diagnosis could be catastrophic for not only the patient, but your medical career as well.
The Three-Part Solution Decades in the Making
Robert (Bob) Blumm, PA-C, DFAAPA is a long-time (now retired) surgical PA, medicolegal expert, and author of the book Surgery for the Physician Assistant. He is also a former editorial-advisory board member for Clinician1.
Bob and I discussed a real case with real-life potential for medicolegal calamity. He avoid this with a couple of insurance policies; a real one and a metaphorical one.
He calls his best insurance policy the ‘parachute of protection.'
So just what is Bob's ‘parachute of protection' and how does it apply to covering your ass…ociated career? For over twenty years, he's been spreading the word about the best way clinicians keep their patients and themselves safe. In addition to a good differential diagnosis, here are the three protective principles:
That's kept him out of trouble for nearly 50 years, so there must be something to it. From neurological nuances to abdominal abominations, this policy can be better than any insurance coverage on the market. But definitely still get malpractice insurance…this is the United States of America, after all.
Whether you are a new clinician, have a few rounds under your belt, or have a (metaphorical, gender-neutral) white beard longer than your white coat, this episode is for you.