10 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Medical Malpractice
According to a study analyzing medical death rata date over an eight-year period, Johns Hopkins patient safety experts determined that more than 250,000 people die each year in the United States as the result of medical malpractice. Amazingly, 10% of all US deaths are now due to medical error.
On average, that amounts to approximately 700 people killed every single day. It’s also more than 6 times the number of people killed each year in the US in vehicle accidents.
Most of us, however, continue to place great trust in physicians and other medical professionals. Whether we need surgery or an exam, little or no thought is usually given to considering whether we might become the victim of medical malpractice. Statistically, though, all of us stand a much higher chance of becoming a medical malpractice victim that we might believe.
This is especially the case when we consider that in addition to extreme case of medical malpractice (like operating on the wrong body part), medical malpractice also consists of matters such as the failure to diagnose a condition (such as cancer), and failing to take adequate precautions to minimize events such as infection or being given the wrong dosage of a medication.
Fortunately, there are some precautions that can be taken to minimize the chance of becoming a medical malpractice victim. The foregoing are suggestions about what you can do to stay safe, and how you can help a family member who may be seeking medical treatment.
- Select experienced board-certified physicians. Get the best primary care physician you can find. They should detect medical conditions, make accurate diagnoses and coordinate further care, if required. Board certification assures that a physician has met minimum levels of training and competency. You can check credentials for MDs at abms.org and for osteopathic doctors at www.aoa-net.org. If a physician is not listed with these organizations, they are not board certified. I recommend you select a board-certified physician.
- Select doctors that are affiliated with major hospitals. All hospitals are not the same. The closest hospital may not be the best hospital for your condition. Research your hospital to find out their ranking generally, and for the type of care you require. You must be willing to travel to get the best medical care for your condition.
- Educate yourself. Become an active participant in your healthcare. You are the most important team member. Research your health condition and treatment options and ask questions. One of the best things you can do is Google your condition. If you have a family history of a condition or disease, don’t wait for your physician to suggest screening, ask. If you have not had screening for major killers like heart disease and cancer, find out what screening is recommended and discuss with your physician. An informed and involved patient will receive a higher level of care. If your doctor does not listen or answer your questions, find a new doctor who will.
- Follow up on all testing. No news is not always good news. When you’re physician orders testing ask how the results will be communicated. If a follow-up visit is recommended, attend. Sometimes test results are lost or forgotten with tragic consequences. Don’t let this happen to you.
- Consider a specialist. Your primary care doctor doesn’t know everything. A specialist has expertise which will allow for more in-depth workup, monitoring and treatment. Specialists can see you on a one-time consult or they can provide ongoing care.
- Get a second opinion. This is especially true if your condition is serious or rare. Find out who the experts in the field are and make an appointment. Consider going outside your current “hospital family” as this may help get a fresh perspective.
- What about surgery? If surgery has been recommended make sure you need the operation. If surgery is needed, confirm your surgeon’s experience with your specific procedure. Does your doctor do the procedure once a day/week/month/year/decade? Ask about their complication rate. Experience and good results go hand-in-hand. Ask if your surgeon will be performing the entire operation. Major hospitals have residency training programs. Ask your physician if a resident will be performing part or all of your surgery and if so, what is their experience level and how will they be supervised. Make sure your surgeon is present throughout the procedure.
- Designate an advocate if you are unable to act. During an illness or treatment for an injury you may not be able to effectively participate in your care. Ask a friend or relative to become educated in your condition and have them come to appointments with you and take notes and ask questions. Execute a health care power of attorney.
- Communicate – Communicate – Communicate– with all of your healthcare providers. Insist on answers to all your questions. Don’t be reluctant to be an active team member. Your health is on the line.
- Trust your instincts. If you are concerned regarding your health but are told nothing is wrong, trust your instincts. Ask for further testing or obtain a second opinion.
If you believe that you or a family member may have been the victim of medical malpractice, we invite you to call us for a free consult.