How Virtual Medical Scribes Bring Empathy Back to the Exam Room to Reduce Your Risk of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Say goodbye to baseball; American’s new favorite pastime is litigation, and no one knows this better than doctors. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reports that depending on speciality between 75%-99% of doctors will face at least one medical malpractice claim by age 65. Through this three-part series we will delve into common reasons healthcare providers find themselves facing a malpractice lawsuit, and investigate simple, research-back changes that every doctor can make to drastically lower their chances of being sued. 

The Case for Kindness

In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes something defense lawyers have known for many years, it is not the quality of care, but the patient's perception of whether or not their doctor cared about them that drives litigation. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist, states “I have seen doctors who make egregious errors of negligence dodge lawsuits because the family kept repeating that the victim had "just loved that nice doctor”, a statement which is corroborated by a recent study found that participants rating their healthcare provider as high in empathy had 80% lower odds of reporting errors. Simply put, patients do not sue doctors they like. 

The worst way you can begin an appointment is to enter the exam room with your eyes glued to the patient's chart, and start firing off medical questions right away. Patients time and time again tell us they want a doctor who is empathetic to their situation and treats them as a person not just a condition. An overwhelming amount of evidence shows patients not only prefer doctors who smile as they enter the room but also believe they are more competent. Patients also value doctors who take the time to get to know them personally. By asking questions about daily routines, family, and overall mental state and well-being you foster the type of connection that leads to strong, lasting doctor-patient relationships. 

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

When patients visit the doctor they are at their most vulnerable, often feeling anxious, embarrassed or in pain. In this state, patients may forget or withhold crucial details, and can have trouble listening and comprehending directions. Without intervention, patients frequently leave their visits feeling as though their doctor neglected to listen to their concerns or provide them with sound advice. 

One of the best ways to put patients at ease is by getting them to laugh. Paul Osincup, a humor strategist and work culture consultant, recommends finding humor in yourself or in shared human grievances rather than focusing the humor on a patient or their situation. This will level the playfield, allowing for open communication and mutual trust. In a study that examined the impact of humor on patients' perception of physician’s credibility, it was found that clinicians with higher perceived humor orientation scores had higher levels of perceived credibility and patient satisfaction, and were subsequently much less likely to be sued. 

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When There’s Just Not Enough Hours in the Day

As fellow doctors, we are all too familiar with the constant stress of litigation, but we also know that many of the suggested preventative measures are not compatible with the current demands of the medical practice. Patients expect their clinician to give them extra time and personalized attention, yet modern EHRs require more detailed notes than ever before and doctors are pressured to see upwards to 20 patients a day. If only your patients understood that for every hour you spent with them you have to complete two hours of subsequent documentation. 

At Deepscribe we believe the  burden of documentation shouldn’t stand in the way of delivering empathic and compassionate care. Our virtual medical scribe eliminates the need to take notes during patient interactions and provides reliable, accurate, and quick EHR-ready medical documentation – simply by listening into the natural patient encounter. That means you’re free to smile, laugh, and connect with your patients without having to worry about taking a single note. Our AI scribe can save you up to of 3 hours per day on average and allow for 217% more face-to-face patient interaction, so you’ll have more than enough time to develop the kind personal connections that save doctors from malpractice lawsuits. If you’re ready to stop worrying about litigation and rid yourself of hours of documentation, then maybe it’s time to upgrade your practice with a virtual medical scribe

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