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The Healthcare Provider’s Duty of Care – The First Element in a Malpractice Case

Healthcare Providers Duty of CareIn a medical malpractice case, medical records form the foundation on which the case is developed. This makes medical records review a crucial element in such cases. Medical record review companies providing medical review services must help the attorney decide whether or not a particular healthcare provider failed to provide the appropriate level of care to the plaintiff. A provider – a physician, nurse, or therapist – is expected to ensure a standard of care that would be considered acceptable and proper by a reasonable body of other specialists working in the same field. “Duty of care” signifies the extent to which a healthcare provider must reasonably make sure that no harm comes to a patient under his/her care.

Attorneys handling medical malpractice cases for injured patients or plaintiffs have to first of all establish that a healthcare provider owed a legal duty to the patient. It is also required to establish what the appropriate level of care was under the particular circumstances. A failure on the part of the provider to meet the appropriate level of care leads to his/her alleged medical negligence.

  • Medical records review is very important to prove that there was a relationship between the healthcare provider and the patient when the malpractice occurred.
  • A provider owes a duty of care to a patient only when such a relationship that is voluntary and entered into by mutual consent exists.
  • This relationship can be established with more existing testimony. It needs to be shown that
    • The patient chose to be treated by the healthcare provider
    • The patient agreed to medical examinations for the purpose of treatment of a particular health condition
    • The treatment by the provider was ongoing

Defense attorneys representing healthcare providers must prove that their clients used the degree of care and skill of the average healthcare provider with a similar specialty practice, keeping in mind the medical knowledge available to the provider at the time when the adverse event took place. The standard of care is the foremost consideration in a medical malpractice claim and for a physician, this standard of care is based on what an average physician practicing in that area of medicine would typically provide in comparable circumstances.

Physicians are bound by duty to provide adequate information to their patients. They have to reveal a diagnosis or provide warnings to the patients in a timely manner. They have to inform the patient regarding risks associated with prescribed drugs/procedure/course of treatment.

Though physicians can delegate tasks to other trained healthcare personnel provided that other physicians would find it reasonable to do so under similar circumstances, they have a legal obligation to effectively supervise any medical treatment that is delegated.

About Julie Clements

Julie Clements

With some background in the healthcare staffing arena; as well as 6 years as Director of Sales and Marketing at a 4 star resort; Julie joined MOS in March of 2008. Hired for sales and support, Julie has proven capable across multiple product lines and in early 2011 was promoted to supervise all solutions managers.