The law is never black and white. This is especially true in the world of healthcare. As a clinician, whether you are a physician, physician's assistant, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, licensed vocational nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, or registered dietitian, you put yourself at legal risk every day. The same holds true for facility administrators and owners. Unfortunately, we live in a very litigious society and people are ready to file lawsuits at the drop of a hat. Most healthcare clinicians are aware of legal risks in general, but most are not familiar with the specific ins and outs of what puts them at risk or have been given detailed information on how to avoid litigation. Wound care is a complex specialty. Any clinician involved in this field knows that it requires specialized education, skills, and knowledge. When you become certified in wound care, you are held to a higher standard of care than the general healthcare provider population. While wrongful death is the leading cause for lawsuits, only second to that are lawsuits that involve pressure ulcers. Did you know that more than 17,000 lawsuits are related to pressure ulcers every year? This number is greater than those lawsuits brought about because of falls or emotional distress. Here's something else to ponderabout 60,000 patients die every year related to pressure ulcers and their complications ("e;Are We Ready for This Change,"e; 2011). As certified wound care specialists, our goal is always to do what is best for our patients. We do, however, have to take into consideration what will put us at legal risk while trying to attain our goals. It's not just a matter of the obvious; there are many intricacies when dealing with healthcare and the law. Too many clinicians are unaware, under-educated, or just plain don't think about the ramifications of their actions or inactions. One of the reasons that the cost of healthcare has steadily risen in this country, is because of the rise in litigation. By providing these educational resources, we can affect a change; not only in our individual localities, but throughout the country. By decreasing the amount of medical malpractice lawsuits, we can help bring down the cost of healthcare. Let's face it, as much as we'd like to look only at the positive effect our actions have on the care we provide, our actions and/or inactions can have the opposite effect. As far as wound care is concerned, it is not unusual to see verdicts awarded for negligence in the treatment (or lack thereof) of pressure ulcers in the tens of millions and as high as $312 million. The costs of these lawsuits are passed along to healthcare providers and facilities alike in the form of increased insurance premiums. This, in turn, gets passed along to our clients, the patients. This book is written to help you understand a little bit more about the legal risks you face in your everyday practice. The information is intended to give you a basic understanding of what pitfalls can put you at risk for litigation and how to avoid them. With the material provided in this book, our hope is to give our fellow healthcare clinicians a glimpse into some of the legal issues in wound care so that they can protect themselves, their patients, reputations, licenses, and assets. We encourage everyone who reads this book to visit healthcarelegaleducation.com for detailed information regarding legal issues in wound care, in addition to many other issues in the healthcare industry you may have questions about. The website offers educational tools including, courses and podcasts that are current and relevant in today's healthcare environment.
Legal Issues in Wound Care
av WCC BSN, Hali McCravy
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