In our ever growing litigious society, bewildered physicians are desperately looking for an answer to the question “How can I prevent a malpractice suit”? This a rather tall order when juries are no longer asking the question what did the doctor do wrong, but rather can the doctor prove that he did everything right? Is there not a sure fired way to not face the dreaded malpractice suit? Dr. George Thomas, a physicist and medical doctor, has studied this concern in great detail and asserts that physicians who follow his recommendations “to the letter” can greatly reduce their malpractice exposure.
Dr. Thomas focuses his treatise from the knowledge that most physicians are sued for failing to properly diagnose an ailment or failing to make a referral in a timely manner. Following is a summary of his do’s and don’ts to reduce the chances of a malpractice lawsuit.
When a doctor recommends that a diagnostic test be taken and the patient refuses, the patient/doctor relationship should be terminated immediately. In court, juries have felt that a physician was not forceful enough in suggesting a particular test. Also, forget your ego and recommend that, after your diagnosis, the patient see a specialist in an appropriate field. Again, discontinue the patient as a client if he/she refuses. If a patient or family member requests a particular test, order the test and refer to an appropriate specialist.
The telephone may have many very useful purposes; however giving medical advice over the phone is not one of them. Physicians should try to not give medical advice over the phone. Recent laws and good sense prohibit prescribing new medication without an examination. It goes without saying that every prescription involving the central nervous system should be accompanied by a warning about driving or operating machinery. Experienced practitioners recommend that doctors officially discontinue care for the patient with written notice because the patient is non-compliant. It is also recommended that the primary care physician should probe to see if the patient is suicidal or has suicidal thoughts.
Dr. Thomas admits, and most of us would agree, that neither he nor the great majority of physicians practice medicine following every one of these issues to the letter. It is, however, critical that the consequences of not following them are present every time there is contact with a patient. He recognizes that good doctoring is a combination of skills, intuition, and art. Insurance companies and juries should not be able to dictate the practices of medical professions, but the realities of present day societal influences cannot be ignored.