MLMIC Insight: Failure to Follow Established Policies and Procedures is a Leading Factor in Medical Malpractice Claims

According to a recent CRICO 2020 benchmark report, The Power to Predict: Leveraging Medical Malpractice Data to Reduce Patient Harm and Financial Loss, the odds of a medical professional liability claim resulting in an indemnity payment increase 145% when the absence of or failure to follow a formal policy or protocol contributes to the patient’s injury.  The finding runs through all types of medical negligence claims: from those associated with a patient fall to allegations of diagnostic error and mismanagement of a surgical procedure.  These cases resulted in significant payments, with an average indemnity of $367,000. 

Whether you are a solo practitioner, group practice or a large healthcare facility or system, taking steps to ensure that proper policies and procedures are both in place and followed is integral to enhancing your own patient safety measures. Towards this end, we recommend that you take the following steps:

  1. Ensure your written policies and procedures are easily accessible and available for reference by all staff.
  2. Routinely review your policies and procedures to ensure they are both up-to-date, and verify that they are being used by your staff.
  3. Develop a system to communicate and educate staff on any changes, updates and/or newly established policies and procedures. This should include re-orienting staff to policies and procedures that are reviewed but do not need to be updated at this time.
  4. Engage staff in developing your policies and procedures: do the policies and procedures reflect their actual practice?
  5. Test all new and revised policies and procedures with staff to ensure they are both understood by the staff and reflect practice needs.
  6. Empower all staff members to “speak up” if a policy or procedure is not properly followed in your practice setting.
  7. Maintain copies of outdated policies and procedures, as these may become vital to your defense should a claim occur: you should be held to the standard of care at the time of the claim and not necessarily present practices.

Having clear policies and procedures contributes to quality care and patient safety. Ensuring they are used while providing care also reduces the risk of liability claims.

MLMIC has partnered with CRICO Strategies in an effort to enhance and inform our patient safety efforts and offer strategies to our insureds to lessen the risk of medical negligence claims.  We will explore more aspects of The Power to Predict: Leveraging Medical Malpractice Data to Reduce Patient Harm and Financial Loss in further editions of MLMIC Insight.