3 Ways Single-Use Devices Protect Your Practice From Liability Claims
Nowadays, lawsuits against medical practices are no longer solely based on medical errors in treatments. They also include how patients perceive a practice and how they feel they were treated – or mistreated – by the healthcare providers at a practice.
Effects of Liability Claims
Although this may seem irrational, it’s the reality. The implications of liability claims and lawsuits are far-reaching. Liability claims have adverse effects on practices and health professionals. Practices suffer from a tarnished reputation, financial loss, and lost clients. Lawsuits affect medical professionals’ physical health, damage their career, cause dissatisfaction with medical practice, and in worst cases, cause depression resulting in suicide. Amidst these negative effects of liability claims and lawsuits, many practices are ill-prepared to handle them.
Many practices turn to insurance to protect them against the financial implications of liability claims. There are different types of insurance available for practices to protect themselves from liability. Liability insurance is among the most common types of insurance for practices. It protects practices in the event of loss, injury, or damage. Importantly, liability insurance protects practices from the financial devastation a lawsuit may cause. For example, if a medical worker in a practice gets sued for a mistake and loses the case, he may be required to pay thousands or millions of dollars. The insurance helps to offset the amount.
Although insurance is a good way for practices to protect themselves from liability claims and lawsuits, it is insufficient on its own. Insurance only gives financial protection, and it is upon a practice to adopt best practices to protect it further from liability claims. Among the ways for practices to protect themselves from liability claims and lawsuits is to adhere to safety regulations and good equipment use. Unfortunately, the utilization of equipment such as reusable medical tools and devices present a liability risk for medical practices.
Reusable Medical Devices
Reusable medical devices are tools that medical practitioners can reuse when diagnosing and treating multiple patients. They include forceps, endoscopes, and stethoscopes. When a reusable device is used on a patient, it becomes soiled and contaminated with microorganisms. Therefore, it has to be cleaned and disinfected before use on a second patient. Reusable devices undergo reprocessing to clean and sterilize them so that they can be safely used on multiple patients. Reprocessing is a fundamental process in protecting patients when utilizing reusable devices.
Risks of Reusable Medical Devices
What happens when a reusable device is not well reprocessed? Poor cleaning of reusable devices can result in the retention of blood and tissue on the device. When used on other people, the inadequately cleaned device causes Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs). Also, inadequate reprocessing can result in tissue irritation among patients from residual reprocessing materials. Poor sterilization results in the transmission of infectious diseases leading to illness and even death. It also causes lawsuits from patients and relatives of affected individuals.
In 2009, the Methodist Hospital in Houston came under intense scrutiny after seven patients developed infections after surgery. The main cause of the infection was retained tissue. John Harrison -one of the patients- got an infection that emanated from two surgical tools; arthroscopic shaver and inflow cannula. The two tools had traces of human tissue and blood. This shows that the two were reusable devices that were not well cleaned. Harrison sued the hospital for an undisclosed amount.
Other cases of dirty reused devices have been reported in other hospitals. In 2009, the Department of Veteran Affairs affirmed that between 2002 and 2009, 10,000 patients had colonoscopies and endoscopies with soiled tools. A good number of the patients reported testing positive for HIV, Hepatitis C and B. Many lawsuits followed.
In 2009, again, six patients in an outpatient surgical center located in Las Vegas contracted hepatitis C after the reuse of biopsy forceps. In 2015, 400 people contracted an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection after reprocessed duodenoscopes were used on them. The duodenoscopes had design flaws that hindered their sterilization. At least 34 people died from the infection outbreak and the survivors bombarded the manufacturers with lawsuits.
In 2018, the court approved almost $1.3 million in a lawsuit against New Brunswick hospital. The hospital has been sued for using unsterilized forceps on 2,497 women when conducting colposcopy over a duration of 14 years. The hospital’s problem started in 1999 when it began to reuse biopsy forceps without adequate sterilization.
Practices and hospitals can use single-use devices to reduce liability risks and lower the number of lawsuits against them. Single-use devices are intended for use on one patient for one procedure. Rather than reprocessing, a single-use device is disposed of after use. Below are three ways single-use medical devices can reduce liability risks.
1. Reduce healthcare-associated infections
The rate of HAIs is alarming. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention prioritizes the elimination of HAIs that patients contract while receiving care. Single-use medical devices are safe and cost-effective tools for hospitals to reduce HAIs emanating from cross-contamination and shared devices. This improves overall patient safety. Many patients sue hospitals when they contract infections in hospitals or when their safety is not guaranteed. Reduced infection rates mean a decreased risk of liability claims.
2. Adherence to good clinical standards
Most clinicians feel that the use of disposable medical devices is best practice and prioritizes the patients’ best interest. It shows a clinician’s professionalism and commitment to excellent patient care. Single-use devices lessen liability risk because it does not endanger patients.
3. Reduce negligence cases
Many practices face negligence cases whereby a professional in the practice breaches the duty of care, hence a patient is harmed. Reusable medical tools present liability risks, especially when employees conduct inadequate reprocessing. With single-use tools, no reprocessing is required. Therefore, cases of clinicians’ negligence are reduced.
Apart from reducing litigation risks, single-use medical devices have numerous benefits for patients, employees, and practices.
Benefits of single-use medical devices to patients
- Improve patient safety
- Ensure the provision of high-quality care
- Reduce vulnerability to HAIs
- Increase patient satisfaction with care
Benefits of single-use medical devices to employees
- Save time and effort used to clean, disinfect, and sterilize devices.
- Increase employee productivity because they spend less time handling extensive reprocessing cycles and more time focusing on tasks that improve patient care.
Benefits of single-use medical devices to practice
- Increase efficiency: you do not have to spend time in pre and post procedure work and adhere to a schedule.
- Cut down costs: although procuring disposable medical devices may be expensive, you save money you would otherwise use to treat infections, cater for lawsuits, and the costs of reprocessing. Your practice will save on labor expenses because you don’t require personnel to perform reprocessing.
- Reduced environmental impact: you may think that single-use devices have a bigger environmental impact than reusable devices, but the opposite is true. Single-use devices do not require reprocessing –utilities and chemicals- that have a massive environmental impact.
Liability claims are costly both in monetary and non-monetary terms. Therefore, practices need to look for ways to protect against them or eliminate them altogether. Single-use devices present an effective and cost-effective means to reduce liability risks by guaranteeing patient safety. obp is the leading manufacturer of single-use medical devices. Contact us today to request a free sample or quote.