Central Florida Doctor (CFDr): In your opinion, what are some key factors in preventing liability risks?
Dr. Carlos Romero: I believe the development of a risk-management program is an essential part of every medical practice. The establishment of systems and standards will provide compliance with regulations, allay patients’ fears and meet perceived needs. In my opinion, a medical doctor establishes a risk and quality management program to prevent loss (financial or reputation), and to market the practice as a leader in health care.
The key objectives of the program should be to:
1. Make operations comply with regulations;
2. Establish systems that reduce the risk of complaints and litigation; and
3. Ensure service is at or beyond patient’s expectations.
How can we minimize the risk of liability? In my opinion, the standards of a practice need to be designed and established by the medical doctor and his/her staff. This interactive process will lead to meaningful standards the staff will strive to maintain, standards that are specific to the practice. I believe the key factors in preventing the risk for liability include the following:
1. Maintaining clear and complete notes and records;
2. Ensuring records are constantly updated;
3. Ensuring a full diagnosis has been developed (i.e., avoiding hurried actions for impatient patients);
4. Ensuring patients are made fully aware of treatment scope, alternatives and risks (i.e., informed consent);
5. Developing a formal office policy manual that deals with likely problems and allows your staff to properly handle patient problems;
6. Being available to your patients (often a simple telephone presence with a solution or acknowledgment is sufficient);
7. Developing a formal policy to protect patient privacy (i.e., do computers face away from public areas, what is on the screen for the patient to see, etc.);
8. Ensuring procedures you perform are those with which you are comfortable;
9. Periodically auditing claim forms and billings;
10. Maintaining records of qualification as part of employee records;
11. Maintaining employment standards and workplace safety issues;
12. Providing staff with clear, concise direction; and
13. Maintaining a small dash of paranoia.
Carlos Romero, MD
Internal Medicine Specialists
3655 Innovation Drive, Lakeland, FL