What Can Hospitals Do to Prevent Malpractice Lawsuits During the Pandemic?

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Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States, which is a shocking statistic considering the fact that patients trust doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals to provide the best care possible. When a health care professional fails to meet the standard of care when treating a patient, and the patient suffers an injury as a result, he or she may pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital or the health care provider.

Unfortunately, hospitals around the country have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and health care providers are exhausted, overworked, and physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. In these extreme circumstances, mistakes are more likely to happen. However, the virus is not disappearing anytime soon, and hospitals have a responsibility to prevent medical errors, despite the ongoing pandemic. If a patient is injured while under the care of a health care professional, he or she is urged to contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

How can Hospitals Operate More Effectively During a Pandemic?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are proactive steps hospitals and other health care facilities can take to operate more efficiently and prepare for the range of challenges that a pandemic can bring. The following are practical approaches that hospitals can take to protect health care professionals, patients, and the community as they respond to COVID-19 cases:

  • Establish infection prevention and control (IPC) practices for COVID-19:
    – Make sure that all health care providers are trained on the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
    – Develop strategies that optimize PPE use, including extended and limited reuse of N95 respirators, and implementing walk-up testing booths where health care providers are able to stand behind protective panels while collecting samples for COVID-19.
    – Institute universal source control for health care professionals, patients, and visitors.
    – Track PPE supplies that are available, using a PPE burn rate calculator.
  • Develop protocols for health care providers, including monitoring symptoms, staying home if they are sick, and when they can safely return to work after a confirmed COVID-19 infection.
  • Provide additional support for health care providers, including mental health services, meal deliveries, and parenting support.
  • Make sure that health care providers understand care that should be provided to COVID-19 patients, based on evidence from the CDC, National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, and other public health organizations.
  • Understand the protocol for discharging a patient with COVID-19 from the hospital to his or her home, or to a long-term facility.
  • When possible, use telehealth strategies to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. According to the CDC, telehealth should be used to deliver the following services:
    – Screen patients who have symptoms of COVID-19.
    – Provide urgent care for patients who do not have symptoms.
    – Provide non-emergent care to patients in long-term care facilities.
    – Monitor blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and other medical conditions remotely.
    – Be sure to follow up with patients after they have been discharged from the hospital.
    – Train and educate health care professionals through peer-to-peer professional medical consultations.
  • Stay current on the COVID-19 cases in the state, city, and facility, and provide access to evidence-based guidance for treatment protocols for patients with COVID-19.
  • Provide the HHS Project with current information about hospital capacity using one of the approved mechanisms described in the HHS COVID-19 Guidance for Hospital Reporting and FAQs.
  • Become familiar with standards of care for pandemics, COVID-19, and other crises, and strengthen the facility’s response to each.
    – Hospitals are urged to use a hospital preparedness checklist and the COVID-19 Surge spreadsheet to respond to the increase in demand for hospital-based services.
    – Establish plans to group COVID-19 patients together and assign them to a dedicated staff.
    – Develop plans to address staffing shortages and provide alternative care sites where necessary.
    – Set up an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) if there is not one in place.
  • Develop a comprehensive communication plan for health care professionals, patients, and the community. This can be done by conducting virtual town hall meetings, conferences with local leadership, phone conferences with staff, and media briefs.

How can Hospitals Prevent Medical Errors During the Pandemic?

There are important steps that health care facilities can take to prevent the above medical errors, as well as health complications related to COVID-19, including the following:

  • Provide simulation training: This helps medical staff learn about the risks, failures, and mistakes that can occur in a health care environment, and the steps they can take to avoid errors. Simulation training can help health care professionals improve their skills and help prepare them for medical emergencies, including issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Take advantage of technological tools: There are a range of technical tools available today that can help health care providers and facilities avoid medical errors. For example, there is software available that can make data entry more efficient. In addition, e-signature applications are available that help hospitals maintain safe social distancing by allowing patients and their families to sign documents virtually.
  • Encourage staff to challenge their superiors. Medical staff should feel comfortable asking questions, airing concerns, and speaking up about concerns they may have, or vulnerabilities that may exist at the hospital that can compromise safety and increase the risk of medical errors. Individuals who are in positions of authority should encourage collaboration and ensure that everyone involved understands the challenges that the staff is facing and the steps that need to be taken to address them.

Hospitals may also want to consider outsourcing service providers to run some of the clinical units within the hospital, including pulmonary medicine, emergency care, wound care, or behavioral health. However, these units will need to be closely monitored to ensure that the billing and quality of care are in compliance. Hospitals must create policies and procedures to make sure that the outsourced providers are documenting their services and doing things correctly and safely.

What are Examples of Medical Malpractice?

There are a number of medical mistakes that can cause serious health complications. In extreme cases, the injury can be fatal. The following are examples of medical mistakes that can lead to malpractice lawsuits against the health care provider or the hospital:

  • Diagnosis Errors: These include errors involving a misdiagnosis or a late diagnosis. A misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor fails to identify the cause of the patient’s health condition, or delays treatment. As a result, the doctor may provide the wrong treatment, which can lead to further health complications. In extreme cases, the complications can be fatal. If a physician fails to diagnose a condition in a timely manner, the disease or health condition can progress and become more difficult to treat. If it can be proven that another qualified health care provider would have either correctly diagnosed the condition, or diagnosed the condition sooner, the treating doctor may be accused of medical malpractice.
  • Surgical Errors: These make up a significant percentage of malpractice cases. Examples include leaving surgical instruments inside patients’ bodies, operating on the wrong body part, or puncturing an internal body part. If it can be determined that another surgeon would have performed the surgical procedure without causing any health complications, the patient may have a valid medical malpractice case.
  • Medication Errors: These can occur when a health care provider administers the incorrect prescription medication, or the wrong dose of a medication. In either case, this can cause serious health complications, and even fatalities in extreme cases. For example, if a health care provider administers a medication for the wrong condition, this is considered negligent.
  • Anesthesia Errors: Patients can suffer severe injuries from anesthesia errors, including permanent brain damage, and even death. As a result, the legal implications of anesthesia errors can be quite serious. If another anesthesiologist would have administered the medication correctly, the patient, or the patient’s family may pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.
  • Childbirth Injuries: Complications during childbirth can impact the health of the baby and the mother. Examples of injuries that affect the baby include vacuum extraction complications, cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, and Bell’s palsy. Examples of injuries that affect the mother include perineal tears, nerve damage, and injuries to the pelvic floor. These injuries are particularly devastating if they cause the baby to suffer permanent health issues.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Medical Negligence

If you or someone you know was injured or suffered serious health complications while under the care of a health care provider, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Your medical care should not be compromised due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After reviewing your case, if we determine that negligence was involved, we will secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.