As the medical negligence landscape shifts, we look at the impact on hospitals and how risk managers can mitigate the dangers
It can be a lengthy and costly process for hospitals when they become embroiled in medical negligence cases.
Edmund Kronenburg, managing partner of Singapore law firm Braddell Brothers, says patients’ claims fall into three categories: pre-treatment or pre-surgery, the treatment or surgery itself, and post-treatment or surgery.
Most, he says, “involve an allegation that the doctor or surgeon did not obtain proper consent for the procedure, usually an omission to mention a possible adverse outcome or withholding side-effects, risks or some important aspect of the procedure”.
Mal Byrne, partner at law firm Tindall Gask Bentley, agrees that some complications can be due to surgical error or lack of follow-up care.
“Plastic surgeons are often the subject of complaint due to the amount people pay for procedures and because surgeons are competing for work and raise expectations of patients about the outcome,” he says.
Dealing with claims is a drain on hospitals’ resources, says Kronenburg.
It involves “not only management time, but having doctors and/or nurses being removed from active duty” since they have to attend lawyers’ offices or court.
Byrne says public hospitals face huge challenges due to lack of funding, inexperienced staff working long hours with insufficient supervision and increasing demand.
The role of risk managers
Leesa Soulodre, chief reputation risk officer, innovation advisor and digital director, RL Expert Group, says healthcare providers have two significant exposures: reputation and loss of reimbursements. The premise of healthcare risk management, she adds, “is that the risk manager should immediately identify, detect and report incidents and hospital-acquired patient injuries with liability potential”.
Soulodre says risk managers’ primary role is that of focusing on improving patient safety and overall standards of care, including both the health of the patient and the minimisation of financial risk.
A comprehensive risk monitoring and oversight regime, she says, “includes a life-cycle risk management approach to continuously defining clinical standards, ongoing reviews of patient outcomes, the systematic gathering and utilisation of data and ongoing monitoring of clinical practice”.