6 Important Steps to Properly Handle an Incident
As a practicing health care professional, your patient’s health and safety are in your hands. And because of the care standards established for your profession, you’re responsible for providing the best care possible in both clinical exercise and ethical conduct. Unfortunately, regardless of your work ethic and your commitment to provide excellent care to each and every patient, sometimes unexpected things happen. If a patient’s treatment outcome is not as expected, or they claim you acted inappropriately during a visit, they could file a claim against you, whether warranted or not.
It’s important for health care professionals to remember that any action or comment on their part that could be construed as unfavorable by a patient should be taken seriously—even seemingly minor incidents or frivolous comments can turn into a claim down the road. No one anticipates finding themselves in a situation where the care they provided is in question, but allegations and claims of malpractice in health care are very commonplace in our modern culture so it’s best to be prepared.
Below are six recommended steps to take to properly handle an incident if you are made aware of an injury or incident that could potentially lead to a malpractice claim:
1. Provide Immediate Medical Help
Always administer first aid to an injured person and call 911 immediately if the injury warrants emergency assistance. Encouraging the injured person to seek additional medical treatment will help to ensure the injury doesn’t cause other medical problems in the future.
2. Don’t Admit Guilt or Liability
You should never admit to any wrongdoing or declare your responsibility for an injury or accusation. Don’t commit to “making things right” to the injured party (i.e. offering to pay for medical bills) but rather, tell the patient that you will contact your insurance company. Details of your insurance coverage should never be discussed with the injured party or anyone else.
3. Contact Your Insurance Agent/Administrator
When you notify the insurance agent of an incident as soon as you are made aware of it, it allows for the claim, or potential claim, to be managed in the most efficient way possible, saving time and money for both you and the insurance company. Oftentimes, the insurance company can intervene and, in many cases, prevent a lawsuit from ever going to trial.
4. Document the Incident—Immediately!
Part of your best practices as a health care professional should be to keep precise documentation of all your patient visits. If an incident occurs during a visit, write down your detailed interpretation of what happened, and do so immediately to help ensure accurate reporting of what happened. A delay in recording the facts could make it difficult for you to clearly recall the details at a later time. If any witnesses were present at the time of the incident, ask them to make a report from their viewpoint as well.
5. Retain Copies
If you’ve followed protocol and taken great notes of your patient visits, you’ll have copies at-hand to provide to your insurance agent/administrator. Do not give copies of any documentation to any party other than the insurance agent—this includes the patient or his or her representatives. Likewise, do not discuss a claim with anyone other than your insurance agent or the insurance company.
6. Keep in Touch
Perhaps the most important step in handling an incident is to stay in contact with the patient. If you’re accused of malpractice, negligence or misconduct, don’t ignore the situation. Staying in contact with the patient—and their family—will go a long way in showing your concern for them and their recovery, and can help to diffuse the desire to lay blame.
The health care industry is full of challenges. Your education and hands-on experience, coupled with the requirements of your professional certification, will lead you in providing outstanding care to your patients and help to protect you from unforeseen incidents. But if one does occur, knowing how to properly handle an incident will be to your advantage in the long run.
The best protection against unexpected malpractice claims is a personal Professional Liability Insurance policy. Lockton Health Professional Liability Insurance is tailored for allied health care professionals and provides the comprehensive coverage you need to protect your practice. Explore Lockton Health Professional Liability Insurance coverage today.