A recent BMJ (British Medical Journal) study listed medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States. The BMJ recommends that healthcare providers make prevention of patient harm the top healthcare priority and institute policy and procedure changes directed toward that objective.

The study points out that the medical cause of an injury or death on the death certificate doesn’t reflect that “communication breakdowns, diagnostic errors, poor judgment, and inadequate skill can directly result in patient harm and death.”

These common but hidden errors may be the justification and underlying support needed to succeed in a medical malpractice suit. Unfortunately healthcare professionals are not transparent about errors and often try to restrict access to medical records. Instead of correcting practices that may harm patients, they couch them in a veil of secrecy to ward off liability. The result? More errors. Healthcare professionals should instead follow the BMJ guidelines to proactively reduce errors instead of hiding them after they occur—that’s the best way to avoid malpractice suits.

BMJ Recommendations

  • Promote a culture focused on prevention of harm, e.g., start every patient conference with “prevention” on the agenda.
  • Formalize a patient safety program by developing standard operating procedures and protocols.
  • Enforce standards and protocols. Ensure you develop a formal corrective action process in the event of failure or error.
  • Involve patients in the decision-making process so that Informed Consent is truly “informed.”
  • Use continuous improvement methods to mitigate future risk—including 1) future risk of patient harm; and 2) future risk of malpractice suits.

A medical malpractice investigation is a complex process that requires deep-dive record discovery, identification of viable options for alternative care and insurance negotiations. Experienced attorneys have the ability to secure fair compensation for bad acts or accidental yet devastating results caused by patient care errors—either in settlement conferences or in court.

Trying to navigate alone through hospital, insurance, and physician processes may prove confusing and ultimately fruitless—hospitals and doctors must protect themselves from malpractice suits and will not be forthcoming. An experienced attorney knows the processes and the law that backs your rights to get information and, if warranted, to proceed with a medical malpractice claim.