In the field of healthcare, malpractice suits against doctors are always a concern among physicians and medical staff. Since the lives of patients are literally in your hands, you have to do your best to ensure the best possible care for your patients. And that’s also why doctors can get sued if they don’t follow best practices, or offer a lower standard of care than is expected of them under current Federal, state, local, and facility guidelines.
Since medical assistants handle administrative and clinical tasks, these healthcare workers can play a critical role in helping prevent physician and nursing malpractice cases.
According to an article in Forbes, a Johns Hopkins study found that medical errors were the third leading cause of death among patients in the U.S. Their estimates put these numbers upwards of 250,000 deaths per year.
Clearly, there is a need for an ongoing conversation about improving care, no matter how many (or few) deaths result from malpractice.
So, how can a medical assistant help prevent lawsuit problems in their healthcare setting?
Here are 5 solid ways medical assistants can make patient care safer…
- Don’t work beyond your skill or certification level. As a medical assistant, it is not your job to give medical advice. That falls under the responsibilities of the nurse or doctors you work under. If a patient asks you a question that you aren’t qualified, or supposed to answer, tell them you will direct that question to the right person. Remember, patients don’t always understand the difference between medical assistants and nurses. It’s your job to stay within the boundaries of your role.
- Keep an eye out for others. We are not insinuating that you turn into the office tattletale. Not at all. But it’s your job to speak up if you think someone may be inadvertently breaching protocol or not following the appropriate procedures. Plus, everyone can make a mistake. Otherwise, patient deaths would probably be close to zero. You will learn a lot on the job, after you complete your training. So, never stop thinking of ways you can step up and improve patient care.
- Take your training seriously – and look for ways to improve your skills. It’s exciting that many medical assistant programs can be completed more quickly than traditional degree programs. But taking patient information, preparing patients for procedures, and communicating with doctors are important tasks that can open your facility up to liabilities. That’s why we recommend medical assistant certification, if you want to work in this role. And make sure you do your part to look for ways your procedures can improve. Sometimes, people like medical assistants, who work at the ground level, see room for improvement that others don’t.
- Informed consent. You should also make sure patients know what the procedure will entail, and agree to it in writing beforehand. This should be a standard practice in any medical setting. But in a hurried work environment with sloppy standard operating procedures, you would be surprised at what kinds of details can be overlooked.
- Don’t overlook your administrative skills. Look, you might not think of scheduling appointments and calling for follow-ups and other administrative tasks as the most important qualifications. But making sure you are in contact with patients to make sure they stay on their plan of care can keep everyone on track. How well you take notes and enter information into computer systems can be a big deal as well. If you miss a critical detail, that could spark a whole series of unfortunate circumstances, possibly resulting in a lawsuit.
With the rising need for medical assistants, and their growing role in healthcare, there are a million ways they can help prevent lawsuits.
The first step in doing your part is starting a conversation.
Make sure you understand your facility’s policies and procedures thoroughly. And ask your peers, nurses and physicians how you can step up and make improvements they want addressed.