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Understanding How to Choose the Right Doctor to Avoid Medical Malpractice Risk

Posted on November 10, 2022 in

Doctors and other medical professionals are meant to help protect and maintain our health. Doctors are only human, and some make mistakes. Unfortunately, when doctors and medical professionals make mistakes, it puts their patients at great risk of harm. This is why they’re held to a high standard of care. When they fail to meet that standard, they can be held liable for the damages (harms and losses) of their injured patient. 

Pursuing a medical malpractice injury and resulting claim can be incredibly challenging and draining, so it’s better to work ahead of time to vet the qualifications of your doctor or hospital to minimize the risks if at all possible. A good way to do that is to research and find a good doctor that you can trust even if sometimes it’s not always possible to prevent these things from happening. At Jensen Phelan Law Firm, we have over 65 years of combined injury law experience. We can review your case facts, and assess the liability, causation, and damages (plus the proof issues) for free so you know your options before moving forward.

Tips for Choosing the Right Doctor to Avoid Medical Malpractice

With so many doctors to choose from, it can be overwhelming to find the right one. However, taking the time to research and choose a doctor who meets your needs and aligns with your values is an important investment in your health. Choosing the right doctor can help you maintain good health, prevent illnesses, and make sure that you receive the care and support you need to thrive. Hopefully, this will also prevent you from ever having to take legal action against someone who was meant to protect your health, not cause you harm. 

Here are some tips to help you choose the right doctor and/or hospital:

  1. Gather up your medical records and organize them so you can better understand your prior health evaluations and avoid miscommunications with your healthcare providers.
  2. Talk to your doctor or healthcare providers more effectively and accurately by using clear communication. Remember, the medical field has its own language, so you need to be able to use those terms a bit to “speak their language” when you tell them about your symptoms, diagnoses, etc.
  3. Find and keep the best primary care physician you can, one you can communicate well with and who has the time and attention to really listen to you when you tell her/him about your medical history, current symptoms, medications, etc.
  4. Learn more about the safety of your medications and their side-effects, dangers, etc. Some of the drugs you are paying for may be duplicative of others, may be useless, etc. Go online for unbiased drug information such as the Public Citizen Health Research Group
  5. Know that all medical tests are flawed in one way or another, and physicians, surgeons and other healthcare providers are humans who can make mistakes. Get a second or a third opinion before every major health care decision. Learn about testing error rates. 
  6. Choose the right surgeon by researching the surgeon’s experience and the surgery setting and team structure. The right surgeon if in a specialty should be “Board Certified” or at least “Board Eligible” in that specialty. Learn and copy the checklist for safe surgery, ask the potential surgeon about each checklist item. The World Health Organization, part of the United Nations, has a safe-surgery checklist which applies to almost all surgeries. Reduce your surgery risks by about 30% by learning and using this or a similar safe surgery checklist. Also, importantly, check the reviews of the doctor, surgeon, medical clinic and/or hospital as to what former patients have to say about the care they received.
  7. Have an ally and advocate with you at every significant health-care encounter, especially at the hospital. When you are sick, your physical defenses are down but so are your mental defenses — your ability to quickly think through a problem and make a good choice, especially if you are under any type of pressure. Your ally and advocate can step in and help prevent healthcare mistakes, get better care and get you home safe.
  8. Steer clear of major hospital hazards and find a hospital that work to maximize your safety. Look up currently-available hospital safety ratings done by the government, non-profit agencies, etc. Patient ratings about the hospital may be the best source.
  9. If you have a chronic disease, educate yourself about what you need and learn how to audit your care to make sure you get it. Do not simply stay ignorant about your medical needs for a chronic disease: be curious and be your own advocate for quality care.

Review checklist for you:

  • Look for board certification: Choose a doctor who is board-certified in their specialty. This means they have completed additional training and have passed an exam in their field. At a minimum, check for “board-eligible” for a doctor/surgeon who is not yet fully trained, such as one in Residency.
  • Consider their experience: Look for a doctor who has experience treating your specific condition or illness.
  • Check their reviews: IMPORTANT: Look up the doctor’s reviews online. Pay attention to what other patients say about their experience with the doctor.
  • Check for previous discipline or malpractice claims: Knowing the disciplinary history of a doctor you are considering, including any previous malpractice claims, can be invaluable. This can be a good resource to check for red flags. Check with the Arizona Board of Medical Examiners and also check with the Arizona Supreme Court website that lists litigation cases by the names of the parties. Look for your doctor’s name in any county the doctor has worked in during the last 5-10 years, in the category of “defendant.” Then try to learn more (or have your lawyer do it).
  • Consider the technological advancement of the doctor’s practice: Technology has provided important advancements for patient health. Check to make sure your doctor has up-to-date technology and that they aren’t failing to keep adequate written notes as the law requires either.
  • Consider their communication style: Choose a doctor who communicates clearly and listens to your concerns. [If you are not communicating well with your doctor, find a new doctor.]
  • Check their availability: Make sure the doctor has availability that works with your schedule and is located in a convenient location.
  • Check their affiliations: Consider whether the doctor is affiliated with a hospital or healthcare system that you trust. This is important, because the hospital has a duty to qualify the doctor before granting medical staff membership, and most healthcare systems follow the same procedures.
  • Check their insurance: Make sure the doctor accepts your insurance or is in-network for your plan.
  • Meet with the doctor: Consider scheduling a consultation or meeting with the doctor before making a decision to see if they are a good fit for you. [Are you able to communicate well, does the doctor listen to you or just talk, etc.?]

Choosing the right doctor is crucial for your health and well-being. A good doctor will not only provide you with quality medical care but will also listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and provide you with the support you need to make informed decisions about your health. In contrast, a poor doctor can put your health at risk by providing inadequate care, misdiagnosing conditions, or failing to listen to your concerns resulting in having to pursue a medical malpractice claim against them. 

Contact a Specialized Medical Malpractice Attorney 

Medical malpractice cases are complex for many reasons, including the emotional pain and stress that arises from a medical professional breaching your trust. Our specialized medical malpractice attorneys at Jensen Phelan Law Firm have handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases successfully and we can help you navigate the process and work to obtain a successful resolution to your claim.

Jensen Phelan Law Firm offers a free assessment of your case and an explanation of your rights so you can make the best and most well-informed decision on how to proceed with your claim. Contact our firm today at (928) 778-2660 or complete our online contact form.