All businesses must take steps to limit their liability if they’re to remain in operation. For healthcare companies, however, the significant liabilities at stake mean that a strategic approach to risk management is needed.
Avoiding litigation and the subsequent financial and reputational implications it brings should be a top priority for all organizations, regardless of whether their profit-making or not-for-profit enterprises. If you own, run, or manage a healthcare company, understanding the potential liabilities you face will help you to ensure that you reduce the risk of subsequent claims or threats of legal action.
Once you’re familiar with the potential liability loopholes that need closing, you’ll be able to implement effective protocols to close the loopholes and protect your brand. To enhance your protection against legal action, take a look at these top tips for avoiding litigation against your healthcare company:
Keep detailed documentation
When it comes to legal action, it’s evidence that will protect your business from false allegations and unwarranted claims. Indeed, even potential actionable claims can be thwarted if you can present appropriate evidence to the court or during pre-trial negotiations.
While physicians may be able to recall some aspects of a patient’s care, the sheer volume of people they treat means they’re unable to remember specific details in relation to every person that’s under their care. Many claims against healthcare companies arise months or even years after the alleged negligence or action, so expecting your medical staff to recall these details with any level of specificity is unrealistic.
Furthermore, even if a physician is able to recall details of an event, there’s no guarantee that their testimony would be accepted in court. If you have evidence to support their witness testimony, however, it substantially adds to their credibility. As well as being more persuasive to a judge and/or jury, having detailed documentation can prevent matters from proceeding to full litigation.
Often, individuals will abandon their claims when they are in receipt of the evidence your company holds in relation to their care. When their legal counsel is able to view the documentation and confirms that they don’t have a viable case, it’s highly likely they will drop the action and your healthcare company remains entirely unscathed.
It’s essential, therefore, that detailed documentation is retained as a matter of course. As well as implementing strict recordkeeping in accordance with relevant data protection regulations, you’ll want to ensure that all your medical staff are recording information in the same formats and with the same level of detail.
Keep open channels of communication with patients
Many people assume that negligent medical care or even unavoidable accidents in a healthcare setting invariably end up as the subject of legal action. In reality, however, there are a considerable number of instances in which a patient would be justified in taking further action but chooses not to.
Often, a patient’s decision regarding making a claim against a healthcare company depends on the level of positive communication they’ve received from their medical team. Patients who feel that their doctors and nurses genuinely care about them and listen to their concerns are far less likely to proceed with litigation, even if they are legally entitled to do so. Similarly, when treatment is explained to patients in detail and their preferences are taken into account or acknowledged, it can prevent a subsequent legal claim against the company.
It’s imperative, therefore, that medical staff recognize the need for effective communication with patients and their representatives. While a procedure may be routine for a surgeon, it could be a major challenge for the patient. Understanding the impact of tests, diagnoses, and treatment from a patient’s perspective goes a long way to making their experience more positive and reducing the risk of a claim against your organization.
Due to this, you’ll want to ensure that all clinical staff adhere to an established communication charter. With clear guidelines regarding patient communication, you can ensure that this approach becomes second nature to your staff. With regular training to reinforce the importance of open communication, clinicians can protect themselves from complaints and accusations, as well as prevent the healthcare company from facing legal claims.
Make accurate representations
Modern medicine can achieve fantastic things but it’s crucial not to overstate the potential benefits of treatments or the likelihood of success. While marketing materials and patient information documentation can be proofed prior to distribution, communication between patients and clinicians can, and should be, subject to the same level of assessment.
However, this does leave the door open for potential claims of misrepresentation. If a patient believes that a doctor or medical professional has guaranteed success or assured them of particular results from a treatment and things go awry, a disappointed or disgruntled patient may feel it’s appropriate to take legal action against your health care company.
Again, regular staff training is essential to ensure medical employees remain vigilant regarding how they interact with patients. While a trained medical professional may think they are getting a message across clearly, a patient in desperate need for a cure may easily misinterpret what’s being said. If the end result isn’t what they hoped for, they may genuinely believe that an inaccurate misrepresentation was made and feel justified in starting legal proceedings. With effective training, however, you can ensure that staff remain wary of this potential issue and take steps to ensure representations are accurately and effectively met.
In addition to this, you can minimize the risk of complaints resulting in legal proceedings by having streamlined workflows to deal with such matters. With the best matter management systems in place, for example, you can ensure that every aspect of your company’s legal agreements, contracts, or disputes handled comprehensively and efficiently. In doing so, you’ll minimize the risk of potential action against the company, meet the necessary data regulation requirements that apply to your organization, and increase productivity across the department.
Preventing Litigation in the Medical Sector
No company wants to deal with threats of legal action, but some types of businesses are more likely to be faced with legal proceedings than others. Due to the complexities of medical treatment and patient-client relationships, companies operating within the medical sector certainly face their share of complaints, claims, and legal proceedings.
While patients or their relatives may sometimes have a genuine cause for legal proceedings, often they do not. This means that they can be successfully rebuffed by your legal team before they progress any further.
To achieve this, however, you’ll need to ensure your legal department has the skills, tools, and equipment necessary to address every incoming threat of legal action. Working in accordance with your own in-house ethos, swift action, and speedy disclosure can often resolve the issue before it gets too far along.
Fortunately, today’s businesses can benefit from a wide range of online and digital tools. Legal software and programs, in particular, have enabled lawyers to access the documentation and cases they need in a fraction of the time it used to take. By utilizing these tools and ensuring they are available to every staff member that needs them, you can successfully protect your business assets, finances and reputation.
While advanced technology or intensive staff training may not be able to rebuff every potential claim against your company, combining these two preventative measures could be the best way to keep your company’s record blemish-free. With relatively little outlay required to access such tools, incorporating them into your legal department could be the best investment you ever make.