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Identify situations that can minimize medical malpractice liability

One of the things that you may fear most of all is a medical malpractice suit. Liability regarding medical malpractice can sink all sorts of medical businesses or draw them into protracted legal battles that can sap resources and put a lot of stress on your team. And, with more practices automating and streamlining operations through technology adoption, liability can often increase due to initial implementation, medical coding errors, or a patient’s option to receive their medical record in an electronic format that is now in effect under the new HIPAA ruling. Below are a few basic keys to controlling the liability that your practice may face around medical malpractice situations.


Do test and monitor systems

Make sure that your documentation or digital records system is not generating errors that could result in medical malpractice suits. Design flaws and inaccurate data compilation can be spotted during the testing phase, so include this process in your implementation timeline.

Do establish protocols for your team

Enable consistent data use and protocol across your practice and break down step by step how your practice tools should be utilized. Hold each member accountable to the standards you establish with random audit checks or other measurable feedback.

Do regularly train your staff

Make sure you train your staff on a regular basis or designate a point person to carry this out. Training can include a review of processes, compliance, and role playing. A well trained team also adds to your overall operational efficiency.

Do delegate a go to compliance resource

A compliance resource is a vital role in your practice. An individual charged with monitoring compliance is responsible for ensuring that you and your staff is following and establishing procedures to minimize the onset of impactful situations that could cause negative consequences.

Do plan for the future

Create a “what if” list as it relates to possible malpractice circumstances. This would include relationships with outside vendors, business associates, contracted staff - just about anyone who has a relationship with you or your patients, but who is not a part of your core team.


Do not assume others will keep compliance

Assuming that someone else is handling compliance can create havoc for you. It’s your responsibility to tightly control the who, what, when, and how in your business. Ensure that your point person is supervised and is supervising other staffers according to standards for preventing medical errors and litigious conditions.

Do not make important decisions without a review

Continually review your processes and protocols to safeguard against liability. With the rapidity of change in the healthcare industry, conducting a review before making important decisions is a must.

Do not delay audits and analysis

Don’t fix it until it’s broken does not relate to compliance. Your practice may be operating smoothly with no pushback from regulators. This doesn’t mean, however, you should relax your risk assessment and benchmarking. Perform and document these activities at regular intervals.

Do not overlook the value of a quick response

In some cases, responsiveness can assist you to avoid liability. Chart those situations where a quick response may result in a positive outcome. Identify and create standard responses to theoretical conditions as part of your risk assessment.

Do not relax clinical practice guidelines

Double down on clinical oversight and observation to reduce risky situations. You may want to have a ‘secret’ sanctioned ‘observer’ at random intervals to help you further identify gap areas.

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The heartache that is felt from medical malpractice suits is extensive and often long lasting. Turn to your legal counsel for specific advice and actions you can follow to minimize your vulnerability and create higher standards to limit liability.

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Photo Credits: Doctors at the General Assembly by Flickr: Waldo Jaquith; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Sue (Sunni) PattersonPresident/CEO

Sue (Sunni) Patterson started in the healthcare industry as a senior medical claims processor with a major insurance payer. Sunni is President of RMK Holdings Inc., a healthcare revenue cycle management services firm. Key specialization areas in...

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