A recent study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago confirmed what has come to be increasingly obvious to many in the medical field: the threat of litigation doesn’t necessarily motivate physicians to do better work. The lead author of the study says, rather, that it is more likely to lead to the practice of defensive medicine.
Previously, we began looking at the issue of medical mishaps which occur in the context of routine medical procedures. As we noted, routine medical procedures, such as tonsillectomies, are by and large successful and occur without serious incident. In some cases, though, something unexpected occurs and the outcome is not a good one.
One important point that every patient needs to be aware of is that every medical and surgical procedure presents risks to the patient. The nature and seriousness of the risks depends, of course, on various factors, including the patient’s condition, the proposed treatment, the overall health condition of the patient, the resources of the medical facility where treatment is being offered, the skill of the doctor and other staff, and so on.
In our last post, we commented briefly on the variation between clinical guidelines for breast cancer screening and the importance of physicians using discretion in applying these guidelines. We also noted that the application of screening guidelines should take into account research, and can even change on account of research.
Medical professionals use a wide variety of tests to screen and diagnose cancer, and make use of a variety of clinical guidelines to determine when diagnostic testing is appropriate and when it is unnecessary. These guidelines vary depending not only on the research that is taken into consideration, but also on the organization.
For counseling professionals, particularly those who prescribe medications and/or monitor their use by patients, the ability to manage medication-related risks is critical to ensuring the safety of patients and avoiding liability. This is important not only for professionals in the field of mental health, but increasingly also for pediatric physicians.
Errors in health care can involve a wide variety of circumstances. Whether a patient is in a medical or surgical setting, a mental health setting, or some other area of health care, there is always a risk that something can go wrong. When a patient is harmed in the course of health care it is important the patient, or his or her surviving family, seek help in pursuing just compensation for their damages.
According to a recent report published by the Economic Alliance for Michigan, hospitals situated in neighborhoods with predominantly lower income residents tend to score lower in quality and patient safety assessments when compared to hospitals in higher-income neighborhoods.
In our last post, we began looking at the unfortunate lack of transparency in medical care, and the effort in some quarters of the profession to improve the situation by adopting policies requiring physicians to more readily empathize with patients when errors do occur.
Mistakes occur all the time in medical care. Some of them are serious while others are relatively minor, having little or no long-term effect. As patients, we expect that our physicians will help guide us through the medical decision-making process, and this includes helping us to assess the effectiveness of treatments, surgeries, protocols and procedures to which we may be submitting.