Protecting Your Treatment Center From Malpractice Claims

Written by Amber Harper—Commercial Insurance Advisor

October 31, 2022 · 4 minute read ·

Blog Protecting Your Treatment Center From Malpractice Claims

Anyone who works in the medical field understands there's a risk they could be named in a malpractice or negligence claim. Whether filed by a patient or a family member of a patient, malpractice claims can have a significant impact, both financially and on your career. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol treatment centers are also at risk for such claims.

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The Importance of Protecting Your Treatment Center

Johns Hopkins Medical Center released a study in 2016 indicating medical errors had become the third highest cause of death in the United States. This study reported that "[M]ore than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error." In addition, over a ten-year period, victims of medical malpractice were paid $42 billion.

Negligence and malpractice claims are expensive and serious. Therefore, protecting your treatment center and employees is essential. Protecting your employees can help ensure they are able to focus on helping your patients.

Protecting Your Treatment Center From Malpractice Claims

Malpractice isn't just defined as an unintentional death. In most cases, patients file a malpractice claim if they believe their medical provider failed to provide high-quality care. Sometimes, poor care is a result of improper protocols or medical mistakes. Other times, it can result from miscommunications between the patient's care team or lack of accountability.

You can't eliminate the chance of patients filing malpractice claims. However, you can reduce your risk of a significant financial loss if a claim occurs.

Properly Document Everything

Lack of documentation or improper documentation can affect malpractice cases. For example, if a patient files a malpractice claim, a court could rule against you if there's no evidence you did everything correctly.

Proper documentation is essential for two reasons. For one, documentation allows every person caring for your patients to know what's already been done. Second, if a patient does claim negligence, you can show every step of the treatment process.

You should instruct your facility's employees and volunteers to document the following:

  • Entire medical and mental health history of all patients
  • A patient's treatment plan, including:
    • Therapy notes
    • What medications you give and when
    • What medications you give and when
  • Side effects or complications of detox
  • Signed and updated consent and HIPAA forms

Effectively Communicate

Malpractice claims can also result from poor communication. Staff members not communicating with other employees can result in medical mistakes. For example, if one employee administers medication and doesn't communicate or document it, another employee may also administer medication.

Miscommunication can also arise between your employees and your patients. When talking to your patients, make sure you:

  • Temper expectations
  • Are honest about the treatment process
  • Provide consistent updates
  • Check in with your patients and ensure they understand everything
  • Answer any questions your patients or their family may have

Follow Protocols

Properly documenting and communicating are essential. However, your documentation and communication are useless without having and following protocols. Protocols are necessary; they set standards and expectations. Having protocols in place provides a safety net for your employees. Your employees will know what to do when a particular event arises. Protocols help ensure all patients receive the best possible treatment.

Some protocols you may want to establish include the following:

  • Standardizing the intake process
  • Creating a chain of command
  • Setting standards of care
  • Outlining what to do if complications arise during detox

Have Insurance Coverage

You may still face a malpractice claim even if you do all the above. Therefore, having the proper insurance coverage is essential. Professional liability insurance can help protect your facility and employees from financial loss. In addition, medical malpractice insurance or professional liability insurance may help cover legal costs.

Insurance may also cover the following:

  • Investigative costs
  • Medical expenses of the injured party
  • Judgments awarded by the court
  • Settlement costs
  • Attorney fees

What Happens if a Malpractice Claim Is Filed?

No matter what steps you take to reduce your risk, you could likely be sued at least once. When someone files a claim against your facility or an employee, time is of the essence.

The first step you want to take when you are sued is to inform your insurance carrier. This process is where having professional liability or medical malpractice insurance is helpful. Your insurance carrier will help make the claims process go smoothly and quickly. When you don't have to focus on the claims process, you can focus on the rest of the steps.

The second step is to find a knowledgeable malpractice attorney. Do not discuss the case with anyone except your attorney, but remember to be honest with them. Your attorney cannot be effective if you do not tell the truth. In addition, you will want to make sure your attorney has all the information needed, including:

  • Your patient's medical information
  • Treatment documentation

Finally, follow the guidance of your attorney and the insurance company. They may direct you not to look at the patient's medical information, or they may request additional information and documentation.

Malpractice claims are an unfortunate part of treating patients. Hospitals, medical clinics, and private practice physicians are vulnerable to malpractice or negligence claims. Drug and alcohol treatment centers are no exception. While you can take steps to reduce your risk and protect your facility from financial loss, you can't eliminate your risk. Therefore, having insurance coverage is essential.

For drug and alcohol treatment centers, Leavitt Coastal Valley should be the number one choice of an insurance broker for professional liability coverage. We will work with you to find a coverage plan that meets your needs and reduces your risk. In addition, we will perform a risk management assessment. Once we identify your vulnerable areas, you can implement protocols to help minimize your risk. Finally, if a patient files a malpractice claim, we will handle the entire claims process.

Start protecting your business and your employees from the risk of malpractice claims. Contact us today at(805) 925-8607.

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