By paying attention to some basic concepts, physicians can decrease the threat of malpractice suits while improving the quality of care they provide.

Over the course of their career, about three in four primary care physicians will likely get sued for malpractice at some point, according to an article in Medical Economics. Even though the chance of paying out in a settlement is not particularly high, the legal sands underlying malpractice cases continue to shift. As FiercePracticeManagement has previously reported, the fact that doctors are unlikely to lose personal assets in a malpractice suit doesn’t reduce their anxiety over the possibility.

Fortunately, Medical Economics reports that improvements that benefit patients and bolster a practice’s data collection can also provide some protection against malpractice suits:

  • Build and nurture solid patient relationships. Patients who have bad relationships with their physicians are more likely to sue them than those with good relationships, says Steven Fox, M.D., an internist and assistant professor at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. Since doctors have no obligation to continue to treat patients with whom they have a poor relationship, keeping such patients around may do more harm than good.
  • Communicate openly with patients. Transparency is the keystone of a solid doctor-patient relationship, says Nitin Damle, M.D., president of the American College of Physicians. He advises that doctors provide appropriate context to ensure notes or other information they share with patients do not get misunderstood.
  • Keep meticulous documentation. “Every doctor is taught that if you didn’t put it in the chart, you didn’t do it,” says Fox. That rule extends to electronic health records, where taking shortcuts such as template use, ignoring alerts while prescribing medications, or cutting and pasting could lead to potential legal liability, according to David Troxel, M.D., medical director of The Doctors Company.