A recent study of key factors in malpractice lawsuits and peer review papers and research by physicians presents an interesting challenge and opportunity. On the one hand, the results further strengthen previous findings: What physicians say to patients – and how they say it – really does matter in whether patients decide to press malpractice charges, and how those cases proceed…

It’s always a learning experience when we look at claims and the story and situation behind a malpractice lawsuit. Some, of course, are straightforward. What would surprise most physicians, however, is how many lawsuits are the result of how patients felt about their physicians and their staff, regardless of the quality of care they may have received.

It takes a certain type of person to become a doctor. In addition to high intellect, doctors must be driven, ambitious, hard-working and confident. They are taught very early on to push through exhaustion and stress. That, combined with the profound ability to save lives, can sometimes cloud a physician’s sense of their own physical limits. The drive to handle difficult, often highly emotional situations for patients can obscure the fact that illness and disability may at some point include them.

Are your employees sitting at their desks, with glazed eyes, poised for flight or fight? You don’t think so? Think again, and start making plans to help them cope because a recent survey from Right Management shows two out of three people say the stress at work is high. Another quarter said they experience medium levels of stress at work. Only 11 percent said the stress levels were low.

Every industry has its cycles, and the healthcare industry is no exception. The current merger & acquisition trend we are seeing among physicians and hospitals has happened before-at least in similar fashion. In the 1990s, larger corporate entities, such as PhyCor and various hospital systems, aggressively acquired physicians groups to build integrated delivery systems (IDS).

Successful companies are not necessarily effective or efficient at implementing change. Even companies that are good at making operational changes may not be good at implementing systemic performance improvements. The use of the planning/project management tools that serve them well in product introduction or facility construction are useful but insufficient for this type of implementation. An intelligent solution, effective planning, and rigorous project management do not, by themselves, prepare an organization for change.

The responsibility to inform a patient or his/her family of an adverse health care outcome is an inevitable part of providing health care. Adverse events or disappointing outcomes occur; not necessarily as a result of an error or negligent care, but often for reasons outside the provider’s immediate control. Events may be correlated to the patient’s diagnosis or co-morbidities, side effects of medication or treatment, or, as is sometimes the case, tied to the unrealistic expectations of patients or families.

With increasing frequency, the media report another security breach that compromises sensitive personal information. Breaches can occur in any sector of society, including health care, and affect millions of people annually. Such breaches occur in a variety of ways, including system hackers; theft/loss of laptops, personal digital assistants and computer disks; or unencrypted information e-mailed to the wrong address. Given the sensitive nature of information held by health care providers and the increasing use of electronic technology, medical practice administrators should take steps to prevent such security incidents. You should also prepare a response plan in the event that such an incident occurs.