Preventing medical negligence safeguards the health of patients and their trust in the system. The reality of medical negligence is it can have long-term, life-changing consequences. Whether it’s through emotional distress and financial burdens or a life-altering disability. It can also result in death.
In fact, around 50,000 Australians are permanently injured annually due to medical negligence, and 18,000 die. Avoiding errors improves patient outcomes and fosters trust, which is an important part of the relationship between patient and healthcare provider.
Medical negligence prevention is a shared responsibility – patients and healthcare providers need to communicate and collaborate to ensure positive outcomes and providers need to adhere to protocols and undertake ongoing training and education to provide optimal care.
Effective Communication Between Patients and Providers
Medical negligence claims can stem from various issues, but open and transparent communication is an important part of avoiding negligence. Healthcare providers require a detailed medical history to make an accurate diagnosis, and that requires honesty from patients. Providers must give patients the platform to speak freely and make them feel comfortable to do so.
Full disclosure allows healthcare providers to tailor treatment to a patient’s specific needs, whether it’s avoiding drug interactions or pinpointing the correct diagnosis and treatment course. Transparency can help avoid complications and give patients an opportunity to express concerns about treatment options or their condition.
By fostering a communicative environment, medical providers ensure patients feel comfortable bringing up issues or concerns surrounding their health.
Informed Consent: Ensuring Patient Understanding
Patients don’t have to take doctor’s advice, and they can opt for whatever treatment they believe is right for them. Informed consent is important, and providers run the risk of breaching medical guidelines if they cut corners when obtaining it. Patients need to understand the treatment they are consenting to and they can’t, unless they have all of the information they need. Part of building strong relationships within the community means providers giving patients the information to make decisions that align with their beliefs and wishes. Failing to obtained proper informed consent could amount to medical negligence.
Patient Advocacy: Empowering Patients to Speak Up
Patients rely on medical professionals for accurate diagnosis and the right treatment options, but patients should feel comfortable advocating for themselves and speaking up. That means asking questions and having them answered, seeking second opinions without pushback or having it held against them, and having the ability to express concerns.
The reason many people are afraid to do this is due to adverse reactions from their healthcare providers, such as the recent case of Stephanie Aston in New Zealand. Aston battled with healthcare providers who accused her of faking the disease that would end her life at just 33. It didn’t stop her from speaking up or from encouraging others to do the same, which is why it’s important for patients to come armed with information and demand to be heard.
Documentation and Record-Keeping
Healthcare providers keep records to document a patient’s medical history, and if you change healthcare providers, that record follows you. Documentation is necessary for continuity of care and for legal protection. It can be used to prove or disprove a medical negligence claim.
Patients are free to request their healthcare records, whether they have a medical negligence concern or there’s something else they want to know about their history. Though providers can refuse to comply with the request, they have to provide detailed reasoning and you can complain to a higher body.
Quality Assurance and Safety Measures
Healthcare facilities play a pivotal role in reducing the risk of medical negligence by implementing safety measures and quality assurance programs. These initiatives protect patient safety and improve outcomes. A quality assurance program requires regular monitoring and evaluation, which will naturally improve processes, identify risks, and improve the overall offering.
Providers must prioritise ongoing education and training to ensure staff are up-to-date with the latest safety protocols and medical advancements. It creates a culture of teamwork and open communication, and there must be reporting mechanisms for adverse events.
Training and Continuing Education
Healthcare is a dynamic field, with new technology and research emerging everyday. So, healthcare professionals must undergo ongoing training and education to ensure they are current with all the advancements and best practices. Patients deserve the highest quality care possible, and ongoing training and education are part of what guarantees that. It’s also key to patient safety and enhanced skills that ensure better outcomes. It reinforces regulatory compliance, ethical standards, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
Ongoing education and training are essential for the healthcare landscape to ensure providers deliver the best possible care.
Patient Education and Informed Decision-Making
Healthcare providers are responsible for patient education to facilitate informed decision-making. Ultimately, the decision lies with the patient, but the onus is on the healthcare team to ensure they have the information necessary to make a sound decision. Patients should understand their diagnosis, the options, and the potential outcomes before giving informed consent.
Reporting and Learning From Mistakes
In any healthcare setting, transparency is important. Healthcare workers should feel comfortable reporting mistakes because every mistake should be properly investigated, and the experience should be used as an opportunity for improvement. There is no room for hiding mistakes when they could repeat themselves and harm someone else.
Healthcare providers must create a culture of transparency and provide a strong reporting framework, whether it’s an anonymous platform or not. Those in charge must be willing to hear concerns and follow up rigorously to ensure everyone’s safety.
Legal Obligations and Accountability
Healthcare providers and facilities in Australia have a legal obligation to ensure patient safety. They also have to address medical negligence liability. Healthcare providers have to provide their services skillfully and reasonably and follow a duty of care. This includes maintaining accurate records, providing patients with all relevant information, and ensuring they have informed consent before proceeding with the action.
Medical negligence can result in legal liability, and providers can protect themselves by complying with regulatory standards, transparent communication, strict record-keeping, and ongoing education.
Despite strict regulations, medical negligence remains a serious problem today and overcoming the issues requires effort from healthcare professionals and patients. The only way to prevent medical negligence is for healthcare providers and patients to commit to the process and open the lines of communication for active engagement.
Empowered patients feel comfortable speaking up, and good employees feel empowered to speak out against poor practices. Whether you are a patient or a healthcare provider, you should prioritise communication and patient advocacy and push for stricter safety measures and compliance with those measures.
If you believe you are the victim of medical negligence in Sydney or anywhere in NSW, you need expert medical negligence lawyers to take your case and fight for the compensation you deserve. At AJB Stevens, we specialise in medical negligence claims.