Judge with a gavel in court

How to Reduce Your Liability

Patients sue for many reasons. Here's how you can lessen your risk of a lawsuit.

Patients sue for many reasons—maybe they didn’t feel heard, their needs or expectations weren’t met or because they experienced a bad outcome. Being consistently compassionate, communicating well, remaining competent and practicing good documentation can reduce the likelihood of a claim.

No one can promise immunity from lawsuits, but following these simple steps can help lessen the risk:

Communicate. Physicians practice as part of a team. Communication across teams can be a challenge. Be honest and open with communications, not only with colleagues but with patients and staff as well.

Build rapport. Get to know your patients. Make connections and document those connections and morsels of information in the chart. Practice active listening and listen with intent.

Be thorough. Flow sheets, follow established protocols and other use tracking tools, for follow-up appointments, test ordered, etc., to reduce the chance that important factors are overlooked.

Refer when appropriate. When the patient isn’t improving; the patient or the patient’s relative expresses dissatisfaction with the care; when the patient’s presentation is atypical or the diagnosis is obscure; or when the patient is critically ill or dying, don’t hesitate to refer out to a specialist if/when appropriate.

Document well. Focus more on the quality of the documentation instead of the quantity. Be thorough, concise and accurate in how you approach documentation.

Developing excellent relationships with patients; promoting good communication; maintaining clinical competency; and producing accurate and credible medical records can go a long way toward reducing liability risk and a long way with building rapport with your patients.

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