Corporate Negligence and Medical Malpractice Considerations for Medical Staff Services
Medical malpractice lawsuits can be a nightmare, but fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the risk your organization may experience, says attorney Joshua McCaig of Polsinelli LLC who spoke about corporate negligence and medical malpractice at the 2013 National Association Medical Staff Services Conference. We connected with him recently to talk about mitigating risk and how medical staff services departments can help protect their organizations. In this article, Mr. McCaig discusses the latest trends in malpractice litigation as well as the benefits of a thorough background check process for hiring and appointing medical staff professionals.
Establishing and Following Protocols Mitigates Risk
Corporate negligence in healthcare is serious and can have significant ramifications, McCaig says. “Corporate negligence has many faces, such as negligent hiring and negligent credentialing,” he said. In those cases, litigation usually focuses on the steps the healthcare organization took to ensure that the provider was qualified at the time of hire, he explains.
“Obviously, it is imperative that the healthcare organization follows its own protocols for credentialing, as any failure in this process is ammunition against the organization. While it is important to evaluate the professional background of the healthcare provider, i.e. education, training and work experience, it is also vital to conduct a personal background search for any red flags that would call into question the character of the potential employee.”
A Trend in Medical Malpractice Litigation
McCaig says one trend he’s seen in medical malpractice litigation is the addition of corporate negligence actions to lawsuits. “In many jurisdictions, where permitted, corporate negligence actions are being added more frequently to a medical malpractice lawsuit. While this is more costly for a plaintiff’s attorney given the additional discovery required, in certain cases where a particular healthcare provider may have multiple lawsuits or has been involved in repeated unethical situations (such as improper drug prescriptions or inappropriate physician/patient relationships), the cost may be justified.”
In such a case, the plaintiff’s attorney can add the corporate negligence claims to the suit, McCaig says. “While a medical malpractice action against the healthcare provider is typically limited to the medical component, a corporate negligence action is a potential publicity nightmare for the healthcare organization,” he said.
Thorough Documentation is Essential
If an organization is facing a lawsuit, the quality of documentation of the related incident is key. “Whether the actual medical record or phone records from discussions with the patients or the thoroughness of the credentialing/employment files, poor documentation hurts a healthcare provider in litigation,” McCaig says. “Not only does it hamper the ability of the healthcare providers to show what actually happened, but, in a corporate negligence claim, it makes the healthcare provider and/or organization look unprofessional and, in essence, sloppy.”
McCaig recommends putting together policies to address documentation issues and to ensure staff members are thoroughly trained in on those policies. “These training sessions, with documentation of participation in the training by the staff on the policies, is a piece of information that can be used if a situation of poor documentation arises to show the corporation was proactive with its policies,” he said.
Background Checks Can Reduce Culpability
Background checks are important because they help ensure hires have the necessary credentials, and may be required by state or federal law, depending on your organization, McCaig says. But there’s more to it than that. “The main benefit of a thorough background check, in addition to the obvious ethical obligation to hire professional providers, is that it decreases the potential culpability of the organization from allegations about credentialing and hiring,” he says.
“Further, by contracting out the background check to a professional service, the healthcare provider can point to that service provider if there was an issue with the background check process, assuming that the service provider is reputable.”
Are you evaluating background screening providers? PreCheck’s background checks are specifically designed to mitigate risk for healthcare organizations and are used by healthcare HR and medical staff offices alike. Contact us today for your complimentary, no-obligation consultation.