Urgent care centers are popping up everywhere, and while many of them offer a wonderful alternative to the expense and long wait times of a hospital emergency department, there are things to watch out for, including medical negligence.
What is medical negligence?
Negligence is what’s behind most malpractice lawsuits. By definition medical negligence is a failure by a medical provider to provide the appropriate treatment to take action where it is necessary. It may also involve providing treatment or care that is below the accepted standard for a patient’s condition.
To prove malpractice in a lawsuit, professional negligence lawyers show there was medical negligence, and that this negligence was the direct cause of injury to a person. That injury can be physical, emotional, or economic.
Is urgent care susceptible to negligence?
Urgent care centers are deliberately trying to move people through as quickly as possible. Partly this is to make money, and partly this is to keep wait times for patients short: one of the main features of urgent care. Speed can equal mistakes, from a missed lead apron before an X-ray to a hasty diagnosis.
There are also far more urgent care facilities now than there ever have been. The rise has been astronomical, and the more urgent care centers there are, the more opportunities there are for an issue to arise.
Patients are also going to urgent care facilities more often now, and for more serious illnesses and injuries. Neither doctors nor patients can come to an agreement about when precisely to seek urgent care help rather than emergency department assistance. Add to this the reality that most urgent care centers are not equipped with the extensive diagnostic equipment of emergency departments and the situation is concerning.
What are the malpractice trends in urgent care?
All the factors outlined above have worked together to facilitate a rise in negligence worries when it comes to urgent care. The most common malpractice claim when it comes to urgent care is a missed diagnosis, with heart failure and renal failure near the top of the list.
There are currently no studies isolating urgent care from other medical practice in terms of malpractice or negligence claims, but many professionals in the fields of both medicine and insurance are sounding the alarm.
With patients coming because they want fast, cheap care, with an absence of specialized equipment, and with so many urgent care centers and confusion about when to use them, all the ingredients are there for a disaster.
What can be done about the situation?
Educate and communicate
Both patients and medical personnel need to be on the same page about when and where to seek medical help for various issues. Urgent care must communicate when they are unable to provide the standard of care that is needed, and patients must communicate with their primary doctor about urgent care visits and results.
Keep to the standards
Just as with a hospital, an urgent care facility should have written policies and guidelines and ensure these are always followed. All policies must be reflective of protocol-based medicine and should be regularly reviewed, both internally and externally. This will help ensure urgent care personnel provide the right kind of care consistently.
Get everyone on board
It’s not just healthcare professionals and patients that need to understand a new system. Both the insurance and legal industries are playing catch up in developing ways of working within a new urgent care reality.
The safety of good medical malpractice insurance and the concern over a lawsuit by good negligence lawyers are precisely the carrot-and-stick-approach that will keep urgent care centers committed to quality patient care.