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Adverse Anesthesia Events: Are They Inevitable?

Statistically speaking, anesthesia-related deaths are very rare: only one death is reported per every 200,000 – 300,000 events. But as with any medical procedure, there is room for improvement, including more stringent monitoring techniques and widespread adoption of best practices. Both of these suggestions can pave the way for standardized procedures to make that statistic even smaller.

The leading causes of anesthesia-related issues include:

While not all adverse events result in death, serious issues can arise, such as brain injury, brain death, increased cardiac and respiratory complications, prolonged hospital stays, and necessary mechanical ventilator support.

Patient knowledge, consent, and comfort are important factors in anesthesia care. Thoroughly discussing techniques, risks, and outcomes with patients encourages candid dialogue about patient history, current physical constraints, or even mental illness that may affect certain modes of anesthesia. Setting the proper expectations for patients creates an environment of trust and confidence in their providers.

In the unlikely event that issues arise, immediately document every aspect of the incident. While this includes a thorough description of technical events, don’t overlook the importance of engaging relevant consultants, such as neurologists and radiologists. Professionals from other disciplines can provide valuable third-party insight in determining cause and effect.

CARE members also have valuable resources at their disposal, such as the RiskFit helpline (available compliments of CARE’s partnership with OmniSure). This helpline can answer questions and provide guidance on how to best mitigate the risk arising from adverse events. The RiskFit helpline garners best practices from the volume of information it collects on similar events. Coupled with the experience level of the associates that provide consultations, this information helps members decide on the best course of action specific to their situation.

Contact us today if you would like more information about the benefits of joining CARE, or would like to see how the CARE/OmniSure partnership can benefit you too.

The Case for Case Studies

As a medical provider, you know the inherent risk and likelihood of unforeseen adverse events. You may need advice when these situations unfold. CARE, through our partnership with OmniSure, offers a helpline specifically for such issues. The helpline assists with questions about specific incidents, risk mitigation, and regulatory-related issues.

We then use the information gathered from our helpline to develop case studies, which in turn help our clients navigate the waters of incident reporting and risk mitigation. The aggregation of this data, coupled with our extensive experience, provides clients with examples, solutions, and best practices of clients that have been in similar situations.  

In this and future posts, we will explore case studies, and how learning from them helps our clients prevent future claims. As an example, this case study outlines a lawsuit wherein the plaintiff alleges that her husband died as a result of a prescription overdose after seeking care from multiple providers – including independent physicians, supervised nurse practitioners, independent advanced practice providers, and specialty clinics – who were negligent in the treatment and monitoring of the patient and his condition. While this case has not been settled yet, it does remind providers of the importance of completing a thorough patient history, as well as patient follow up.

We all make mistakes, in both our personal and professional capacities. To err is human. If you have patient safety or risk management questions, or need guidance after a potentially litigious event, get the guidance of a clinical risk specialist. Don’t go it alone. As a CARE policyholder, you have access to confidential advice-on-demand from a third-party firm that specializes in helping avoid litigation by protecting your patients, your license, and your reputation. Click here for more information.  

The Benefits of a Solid Risk Management Plan

It’s imperative to be proactive in healthcare. Not only in caring for your patients and staff, but also to stay ahead of any inherent risks to your business. A solid risk management plan reduces your liability in the first place, and acts to minimize litigation (should it happen). This protects not only your financial standing and assets, but also your firm’s market share, accreditation, reimbursement levels, brand value, and community standing.

One major benefit of instituting a risk management plan is that it improves patient outcomes too. A heightened awareness of processes, especially documentation, instills a sense of professionalism across your entire team, including both healthcare workers and office staff. This in turn reduces errors, which improves patient satisfaction and strengthens your reputation in the community. It also increases your bottom line by reducing expenses.

Risk management, at a basic level, is the responsibility of everyone employed at your business. But since everyone already has a full plate of responsibilities, their role is usually more reactive (to specific events) than proactive (looking at the big picture). You also need an expert on your team. Depending on the size of your practice, it might make sense to hire a risk manager. However, more often than not, your budget simply doesn’t have the room to take on a full-time salaried position. Partnering with a third-party risk management firm might be the perfect compromise.

Speaking of third parties, a level of risk is both assumed and mitigated whenever you contract with third parties. Not just for malpractice management, but for any services. Consider basics, such as records management and document shredding services. These may seem like simple tasks, but everything related to healthcare records needs to be considered under the watchful umbrella of compliance. Data sharing, storage, and destruction all fall under that umbrella.

Contact us today if you have questions about risk management and outsourcing those types of responsibilities. We would love to put our collective experience to work for you.

Medical Malpractice Concerns: Mitigating Your Risk

Can physicians and providers take steps to mitigate their malpractice lawsuit risk? While it may seem an inevitability, there are measures you can take to protect yourself and your practice.

The first step involves patient relations. Having a solid rapport with patients before any issues arise is the best way to instill confidence and trust. It is important to communicate to patients whenever a problem occurs. And if that issue includes a physician error, an apology is a necessary component of malpractice mitigation. An honest conversation about what went wrong builds faith in the patient/provider relationship. No one wants to do business with someone that they feel is untrustworthy. Not a mechanic, and certainly not a medical provider. The transparency of communicating the issue is paramount to patient relations, but the solution is also important. Resolve the issue and it strengthens your reputation as a problem solver.

Documentation is an important part of any malpractice avoidance strategy. Documentation is not only about maintaining detailed official patient records about diagnoses and procedures, but also includes proof of all conversations involving consent, care, complications, options, and expectations of both the provider and the patient. An often-overlooked piece of documentation is when a patient is referred to another provider. If their condition is serious, ensure that they understand the urgency in which they need treatment and follow up.

Another element largely at play is simple geography. Educate yourself on your state’s specific malpractice laws. Variations and factors include:

  • Each state’s tort reform laws differ, some require a certificate of merit before a case can proceed through the court system
  • Some states enlist the professional opinion of medical review panels, which are comprised of medical and legal professionals
  • Statutes of limitation also differ between states
  • Damage caps vary, and play a large part in whether attorneys are willing to proceed with malpractice suits

In general, it’s important to have a concrete system of checks and balances in place (this protects both providers and patients). It encourages professionalism at all points of contact and eliminates doubt that any patient is likely to have when undergoing serious/complicated medical treatment. Being deemed reliable is a great way to mitigate your malpractice suit likelihood.

Contact us today. We can analyze your firm’s liability potential and provide you with solutions to lessen your malpractice concerns.