Preventing Medical Malpractice: Strategies for Healthcare Administrators

Healthcare in the U.S. is complex, with many moving parts, which can pose risks and dangers for patients, doctors and institutions. Healthcare administrators must know how to mitigate these risks to protect everyone, and a significant part of their job involves preventing medical malpractice scenarios. This requires a varied approach but can include implementing risk management strategies, like effective communication and policies, to address any possible adverse situation.

Students in the Eastern Washington University (EWU) online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Healthcare Administration concentration program will learn about preventing malpractice in courses like Health Law and Human Resources. With a curriculum covering the ins and outs of the nation’s legal system and the regulatory and operational policies applicable to healthcare entities, graduates will gather the knowledge necessary to create safer medical experiences.

What Role Do Healthcare Administrators Have in Risk Management?

Healthcare is inherently risky, and human beings will always make mistakes. However, attentive and proactive healthcare administrators can considerably reduce the liability of employees and facilities. They can start by developing a comprehensive malpractice policy that outlines clear guidelines to prevent and respond to potential situations, whether that is a patient fall or a data breach.

A solid medical malpractice prevention policy involves several key components to mitigate risks and protect patients and staff. The elements to consider including are:

  • Well-defined job responsibilities and expectations
  • Sufficient malpractice insurance, including claims-made and occurrence policies
  • A culture of safety and accountability, not blame
  • Thorough documentation practices
  • Clear error reporting guidelines
  • Root cause analyses of adverse outcomes
  • Ongoing staff education and simulated training opportunities
  • Routine risk assessments using data analytics

Still, the best risk management strategy is to create an environment that encourages doctors and other healthcare workers to practice evidence-based, patient-centered medicine.

Effective Communication Protocols

Communication breakdowns often contribute to malpractice incidents. Healthcare administrators must emphasize and establish protocols that streamline communication between medical staff, patients and other involved parties. Improved communication can positively impact patient satisfaction and risk reduction.

As reported by Medical Economics, physicians who have a better bedside manner and are more responsive and friendly with patients may be less likely to be sued by them. Fostering open communication and taking the time to sit and listen to patients and meet them where they are is a surprisingly helpful malpractice deterrent.

As technology plays a more prominent role in care delivery, healthcare administrators may need to dedicate more time and energy to creating policies focused on data integrity and secure information exchange. Digital communication systems and procedures that do not work seamlessly can lead to frustrations for all involved and jeopardize safety and reporting compliance.

Can Administrators Shrink Medical Malpractice Risk?

Medical malpractice is exceedingly common and costly. Larry L. Smith, vice president of risk management for MedStar Health, calls liability the “elephant in the room” and encourages healthcare leaders to direct resources toward shrinking it.

For example, Smith says medical malpractice claims are frequently connected to labor and delivery services. He told the perinatal software company PeriGen: “First, rather than dealing with a single patient, you have the mother-baby dyad, which given their reliance on each other, more than doubles the potential risk. A change in the status of one may have a downstream effect on the other, which can be easily missed in the often chaotic and data-intensive L&D environment.”

To reduce this risk, he recommends staffing the unit with the most experienced team possible, investing in ongoing education and creating a peer review program to provide feedback for improvement. In addition, incorporating technology to support care delivery, such as artificial intelligence, can alert staff to emerging issues and allow for earlier interventions.

Healthcare administrators can minimize medical malpractice claims by promoting documentation best practices, implementing effective communication protocols and crafting comprehensive prevention policies. This multifaceted approach should be revisited frequently to maximize patient safety and risk reduction in the evolving healthcare landscape.

Graduates with an advanced business degree focusing in healthcare administration are equipped with the skills to prevent medical malpractice in their healthcare careers.

Learn more about Eastern Washington University’s MBA with a Healthcare Administration Concentration online program.

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