Hospitalists and malpractice: time to think about your risk
Published in the July 2006 issue of Today's Hospitalist
How much should you worry about the risk that you’ll be sued for malpractice? While hospitalists worrying about malpractice problems is nothing new, there seems to be a heightened fear lately about the specialty’s vulnerability in the courts.
At several conferences I’ve attended in the last few months, a number of hospitalists have talked about botched hand-offs and discharges that led to malpractice lawsuits involving hospitalists.
For years, we’ve heard warnings that it was only a matter of time before attorneys would notice not only the swelling ranks of hospitalists, but the vast amount of soul-searching that is paid to problems with transitions like discharges and hand-offs.
If it’s in fact true that malpractice attorneys have hospitalists in their sights—and there is little in the way of good data on the topic—now is a good time to think about your liability risk. As a number of recent lawsuits demonstrate, your responsibility for patients doesn’t end at discharge.
If your discharge summary doesn’t arrive in time for the follow-up visit, for example, you might find yourself on the hook. If it arrives but doesn’t have information on a test result that wasn’t yet available—one that later turns out to be critical to the patient’s care—you might also be on the hook.
You can read about specific strategies to avoid malpractice problems in the story on page 10, but the take-home message is simple enough: It’s time to do more to take ownership of your patients both inside—and outside—of the hospital.