As you know, medical errors are no small issue. In fact, medical errors are currently the third leading cause of death in the United States. While most medical errors in the audiology field do not result in life-or-death situations, audiologists and their staff should still be mindful of the potential for medical errors and their impact on their professional life.
For instance, the following areas of medical error are applicable to the field of audiology: mistaken or delayed diagnosis, failure to act on test results, use of outmoded tests, and inappropriate or delayed treatment management. To minimize professional liability – and to protect your patients’ rights and enhance their safety – here are five simple steps to avoid medical errors:
- Protect patient safety, security, privacy, and rights
Patients have the right to expect privacy and safety in regards to their personal health information. You and your staff must be careful to maintain patient confidentiality and comply with all state and federal laws and regulations.
Since HIPAA was implemented in 2005, health care providers are expected and required to maintain the confidentiality of patients’ protected health information in all formats, including electronic and verbal communication.
- Train all staff
From the audiologist to the support staff, every person in your practice must play an equal role in preventing medical errors. If you are an audiologist who employs others, you are vicariously responsible and legally liable for all personnel at your clinic.
To ensure that patient rights are protected – and so are you – be certain to regularly educate all staff members about patient safety, security, privacy, and rights. In addition, all staff members (including interns and junior staff members) should feel safe in bringing up any problems regarding patient privacy or safety.
- Maintain standard of care
Standard of care is the degree of prudence or caution that a reasonable audiologist should exercise in caring for patients in a given clinical situation. Standard of care is typically consistent with national clinical practice, which is defined in written statements of guidelines and recommendations. Standard of care must also be consistent with statements of the scope of practice, state licensure laws and regulations, code of ethics, and federal health care regulatory entities.
- Be aware of and comply with guidelines
Almost everything you do as an audiologist in identifying, diagnosing, and managing hearing loss and related disorders has guidelines that are evidenced-based and peer-reviewed. You can lower your risk of professional liability by strictly adhering to the clinical practice guidelines.
You can easily find these documents on the website of professional organizations like the American Academy of Audiology. If you are drawn into a professional liability lawsuit, you will have a strong legal defense if you can prove full compliance with the relevant clinical practice guidelines.
- Be consistent in communication and documentation
Audiologists must maintain consistent communication with their patients and family members. Before beginning any procedure, you should thoroughly explain the process and answer any questions. Also, inform the patient that they can halt the procedure at any time if they have concerns or experience physical discomfort.
Provide your patients with detailed reports of services provided, and maintain careful, complete documentation in writing of what was done for and with all patients. Also, include any relevant test findings or photographic documentation. The legal advice regarding documentation is simple: If you did not document what you did, then you did not do it.
With these simple steps, you can minimize professional liability and medical errors. For more information about marketing your practice, we welcome you to contact us at AudiologyPlus today.