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Doctors prevent patient injury and avoid lawsuits: six tips and best practices

"To identify the most overlooked risks to physicians, Medical Economics asked several thought leaders to share their insight into strategies for protecting office-based practices."

“To identify the most overlooked risks to physicians, Medical Economics asked several thought leaders to share their insight into strategies for protecting office-based practices.”

A friend recently shared a sad story about a young student who went to the hospital complaining of general pain and discomfort who recently died after being in a coma, and the family believes the specialist and administration failed them. The student of veterinary science’s professor visited during treatment before the student slipped into a coma. As family members and friends, who knew a little something about medicine, made suggestions, they were quickly dismissed. The specialist was certain that the student had a textbook case of her illness, and the administration was not about to question the specialist. Are non-physicians reading too much into what they read online? Are the specialists really at fault? What happens when families are fed up and file malpractice and wrongful death suits for patient injury and death?

A recent article offered several tips for physicians who want to prevent patient injury and avoid lawsuits[i].

  1. Informed Consent. Do you ever listen to the list of side effects on commercials for pharmaceuticals? If you slowed down and spent some time considering all the actual and apparent risks involved you might not take as many medications. When discussing various treatment options with patients and their loved ones, the full disclosure to promote a clear understanding of risks them make more informed decisions. Knowing for example, that surgery could lead to paralysis or death, is important to patients who should be an active player during the course of their treatment. Physicians should document informed consent practices so they can improve on these tasks and skills sets. Also, mitigating allegations by patients can be easier with well documented practices.
  2. Communication Failures. Physicians have a very small window of time to tell patients and their families about outcomes, both positive and negative. Patients certainly want to be kept in the loop and adequately informed about their progress and when things might be okay. The level of detail and explanation can get lost in communication. To put it simply, something that might be normal in the course of diagnosis, treatment and response to a physician, could seem very alarming to a patient or family under unusually high stress and pressure. On a case by case basis a smart physician should prioritize full and honest disclosure and communication with the patient and family. Preserving the sense of trust and diligence may allow people to be more forgiving in response to errors or bad news.
  3. Standards and Training. The current standards of practice should be studied by physicians in their areas of practice. Standards are frequently updated as more is learned about best practices in disease management for acute and chronic conditions. New advances in technology and recently published research results are imperative to physicians who are constantly learning and evolving in their practice of allopathic medicine. When doctors fail to keep up with current standards and medical training they are offering outdated medical services to understandably upset patients and families when things don’t go as well as possible.
  4. Diagnostic Test and Specialist Referral Follow-up. Patients often feel that every ordered test, x-ray and lab result is a piece of the puzzle and can solve the medical problem at hand. Sometimes those test results do not make it back to the treating physician in time or are dispensed with before the physician could properly review them and the findings are not communicated to the patient. Extra attention paid to tracking results can help prevent costly errors that upset patients and families and could cause harm. Referrals to specialists are also very important in the course of treatment because one medical professional should know what the other involved doctors are doing and what they have to say about treatment.
  5. Policy and Procedure Variation. Hospital administrations and policy and procedure directions can make any professional’s job seem like a nightmare. What compounds the problem of a volume of information that can be tough to manage is the shifting set of standards from administration to administration and from doctor to doctor. This makes the process of giving medical care and treatment very difficult if the medical professionals must constantly second guess whether what they are doing is appropriate and pursuant to the correct policy.
  6. Avoidance Behavior. With new advances and new technologies there is a counterweighing level of risk. Bad outcomes should be communicated directly and physicians should not avoid being the bearer of bad news. Managing expectations also can mean managing patient and family hope that a good outcome can occur when least expected. Many people suffering from despair and the agony of bad medical outcomes need the support of the treating physicians who did the best they could which sometimes just is not enough. Avoiding and hiding from people and unpleasant situations can look like a guilty behavior. It is better to confront people directly than let them wonder and come to their own possibly incorrect conclusions on their own.

Michael V. Favia & Associates are available to assist physicians with professional licensing matters and lawsuits for medical negligence and patient death. With offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburban meeting locations, you can schedule a discrete meeting with an attorney at your convenience and discretion. For more about Michael V. Favia & Associates’ professional licensing work, please visit www.IL-Licensing.com and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter.


[i] Medical Economics. Six ways physicians can prevent patient injury and avoid lawsuits. By Susan Kreimer. Dec. 10, 2013.

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Interview on Chicago Concussion Coalition and Sports Legacy Institute

Established in 2011, the Chicago Concussion Coalition (CCC) represents a network of 50 national athletic, health and social service organizations united under a common mission  to work in partnership with coalition members to provide student athletes in greater Chicago with the best resources available reto protect them from sports related concussions and recurring injuries.

Established in 2011, the Chicago Concussion Coalition (CCC) represents a network of 50 national athletic, health and social service organizations united under a common mission to work in partnership with coalition members to provide student athletes in greater Chicago with the best resources available reto protect them from sports related concussions and recurring injuries.

Do you know someone who plays contact sports such as football, hockey, soccer or baseball? How about someone who cheers for the team? Maybe you also know a veteran of U.S. military service. Ok, what do you think all these people have in common? They are the focus of traumatic brain injury / concussion research, education and policy change, by the Sports Legacy Institute (“SLI”) and the Chicago Concussion Coalition. Earlier this week Michael V. Favia appeared along with Ms. Caitlin McElroy, Field Associate, for the Sports Legacy Institute in Chicago, to share information about SLI and its mission, activities and various avenues for interested professionals to get involved.

Click/tap here to listen to an on demand broadcast of the interview on Law Talk Radio.

The mission of the Sports Legacy Institute is to advance the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups. Highlights of the interview include a further detailed explanation of the SLI’s mission and the foundation of the organization by Christopher Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu. They founded SLI as a Boston-based 501(c)(3) in 2007 in response to new research and increased attention to traumatic brain injuries and the need for more research, education and to affect policy change.

Do remember playing sports as a kid, many years ago, and getting hit in the head? Many little league coaches, for example, were known for saying, “Hey, get up and walk it off and take your base.” Then, days later little Tommy’s facial expressions seemed a bit off and droopy and he started mixing up his words. Nowadays, some people think we are overly cautious about concussions. As more research is reported, the scariest thing doctors conclude is that we have only barely scratched the surface in knowing what we are dealing with in terms of cognitive impairment post trauma.

NFL lawsuits brought concussion/traumatic brain injuries to dinner table discussions nationwide.

When several former NFL players filed suit against numerous defendants for permanent injuries due to concussions during games, a few helmet manufacturers responded with efforts at creating high-tech safety helmets, which is a good thing. What people should remember is that helmets can help soften impacts and protect the skull, but the brain is floating in fluid and those impacts can still create grave danger to players.

Many advocacy groups also focus their attention on cheerleading safety and military service members who suffer from traumatic brain injury. Also discussed in the above-linked interview are current trends in concussion research, and how SLI and the Chicago Concussion Coalition are engaging community groups, schools and teams to share vital information. Attorney Michael V. Favia noted that injury attorneys looking for concussion experts should certainly learn more and be in touch with SLI’s Chicago Concussion Coalition to learn more.

The Law Offices of Michael V. Favia advise and represent clients in connection with concussions/traumatic brain injury. To contact the firm to speak to a lawyer you may dial (773) 631-4580. For more information about the firm’s practice areas, you can visit the website, Facebook and Twitter sites.

HIPAA violation triggers $1.44 million jury verdict against Walgreen’s and pharmacist

Most people understand that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) concerns the privacy of our personal healthcare information. Indeed the Act establishes strict rules for the professionals who have access to and keep our private records that contain information from our height and weight to medications we take and illnesses we fight. Many people are very sensitive about others knowing their private medical business, and for good reason. In our society, being sick is often seen as a weakness. What we seldom hear about are violations of HIPAA and what can happen when our private healthcare information is compromised. In this short article, we examine HIPAA and how courts in Indiana addressed a HIPAA violation and the jury awarded $1.44 million to a customer of Walgreen’s for a confidentiality breach.[i]

"Although HIPAA does not create a private cause of action, a recent Indiana Superior Court jury verdict demonstrates that HIPAA still could play an important role in private causes of action in state court based on negligence and professional liability as it relates to confidentiality." JD Supra Law News

“Although HIPAA does not create a private cause of action, a recent Indiana Superior Court jury verdict demonstrates that HIPAA still could play an important role in private causes of action in state court based on negligence and professional liability as it relates to confidentiality.” JD Supra Law News

About the two parts of HIPAA and what they mean to you.

Two main sections of HIPAA affect our private healthcare information. Title I protects our employees and their families’ health insurance during a period of job change or job loss. Title II is the section, known as the Administrative Simplification provisions, that controls national standards for electronic healthcare transactions. This second part concerns national identifiers and applies to healthcare providers, employees and their insurance plans. Security and the privacy of our personal healthcare data is controlled by this second part of the Act.[ii]

The customer’s pharmacist shared confidential information about a pregnancy and the same information used to intimidate the customer who demanded child support from the pharmacist’s husband!

A twisted love triangle and child support payments were central to the case where, unbelievably, a licensed pharmacist’s husband fathered a child with the Walgreen’s customer. When the pharmacist allegedly discovered and disclosed her customer’s prescription information when confronting her husband about the pregnancy. The pharmacist’s husband then allegedly used the private information to both intimidate the customer when she demanded child support payments from the pharmacist’s husband. The abused customer sued Walgreen’s and its pharmacist in the Indiana Superior Court.

The HIPAA law does not specifically address private lawsuits against healthcare providers or other covered persons for violations of the Act. Nevertheless, the Court allowed arguments regarding negligence and professional liability for violating HIPAA. The Plaintiff customer’s complaint alleged both Walgreen’s and its pharmacist “breached their statutory and common law duties of confidentiality and privacy. The complaint also included claims of negligence, invasion of privacy and publication of private facts against the pharmacist and claims of negligent training, supervision and retention against Walgreen’s for continuing to employ the pharmacist after discovering the incident.”

While this is not the first time the structure and intent of the HIPAA law was used to support an individual’s lawsuit for violations of the Act, however, this is the first very large verdict. A $1.44 million dollar loss sends a message that the impact of HIPAA violations is much more severe than an insignificant punishment. Privacy concerns are certainly on our minds, as the media shares more stories about what can happen with laws are not followed.

The Law Offices of Michael V. Favia represent wronged plaintiffs in a variety of cases, including complaints against healthcare professionals who run afoul of HIPAA, either negligently and/or intentionally.

The Law Offices of Michael V. Favia are known for advising and representing clients in connection with healthcare matters. To contact the firm to speak to a lawyer about a healthcare-related concern you may dial (773) 631-4580. For more information about the firm’s practice areas, you can visit the website, Facebook and Twitter sites.

Favia and Team John Marshall ran/walked 5k to stomp out homelessness

Over 105,000 Chicagoans were homeless in a recent study[i]. A record turnout of supporters participated in the third annual 5k run/walk to end homelessness[ii] this past Sunday, July 14, 2013 in Chicago’s Douglas Park. Michael V. Favia ran with The John Marshall Law School team who ran and walked in Sunday’s heat and humidity to stomp out homelessness. Favia and other alumni from John Marshall frequently support causes that make Chicago a better place for everyone.

A Safe Haven - 2013 5K RUN! Running in support to end homelessness, Mike Favia ran with The John Marshall Law School team this weekend.

A Safe Haven – 2013 5K RUN! Running in support to end homelessness, Mike Favia ran with The John Marshall Law School team this weekend.

Michael V. Favia: “A great event for a great cause!”

A Safe Haven[iii] foundation hosted Sunday’s 5k run/walk event. A Safe Haven is “an organization dedicated to transforming lives from homelessness to self-sufficiency with pride and purpose.” The foundation hosts several events to engage volunteers, sponsors and community members who want to help battle homelessness. Upcoming events noted on the website include food pantry volunteer work involving inventory, clean up, bagging and distributing canned goods.

The foundation, established in 1994, uses a sustainable model to help with temporary housing, treatment and recover, education, job training and placement, employee retention and permanent housing. With a roof over your head and three square meals a day, A Safe Haven program graduates move on to help others. Many of the program participants are veterans and battle addiction, post-traumatic stress and other challenges. Fundraising events like the annual 5k run help put success in reach.

Sponsors of this year’s 5k run/walk included Chicago area media channels, businesses and law firms. Michael V. Favia, Immediate Past President of The John Marshall Law School Alumni Association, worked with current President, Hon. Regina Scannicchio, to co-sponsor The John Marshall Law School team of almost a dozen runners and walkers who beat the heat this past Sunday for such a worthy cause.

Michael V. Favia & Associates is active in supporting community events raising funds and awareness of the causes that affect friends and neighbors in the Chicago area and nationwide. Get in touch with the firm[iv] if you have an upcoming event and need a team of great Chicagoans who care enough about their friends and neighbors to show it with hard work.

ABOUT THE FIRM: The Law Firm of Michael V. Favia & Associates is a successful General Civil Practice dedicated to providing personalized service and high quality representation for clients. With offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburban meeting locations, you can schedule a discrete meeting with an attorney at your convenience and discretion. Feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter and you will be kept in the loop about upcoming events and news in the firm’s practice areas including personal injury, medical malpractice, worker’s compensation, complex civil litigation and professional regulation and licensing.

Michael V. Favia speaks at concussion symposium

Michael V. Favia speaks at concussion symposium hosted by DePaul SLICE

Michael V. Favia speaks at concussion symposium hosted by DePaul SLICE on May 9, 2013

Michael V. Favia, J.D., frequently speaks on panel symposiums on the areas of practice offered by The Law Firm of Michael V. Favia & Associates. Personal injury and specifically traumatic brain injuries are focused areas of practice at the firm. This May, the DePaul Sports Legacy Institute, Chicago Concussion Coalition, hosted a concussion symposium and invited attorney Favia to volunteer his time and speak, among a panel of experts, presenting to an audience of nearly 50 professionals who are concerned with injuries to the brain.

Traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) is a compelling field of research and the studies published in the medical and legal communities are frequently updated as more is discovered about the brain and how it responds to injury. Many legal cases in the news highlight the trauma an injury victim experiences. For example, the National Football League and many retired NFL players are involved in ongoing litigation regarding helmet safety, physician roles and player safety through education.

Concussions can be particularly difficult to diagnose and treat, particularly due to a wide range of symptoms experienced and reported by brain injury victims. With increased awareness among professionals and citizens there is an increase in policy making and education so we can all protect our friends and family when an injury occurs. Sporting programs, not only professional, but also local, in schools and communities benefit from the collective research and presentations of the issues in symposiums here in Chicago and nationwide.

The panel of presenters at the May 9, SLICE concussion symposium also included: Dorothy Kozlowski, Ph.D.; Leonard V. Messner, OD, FAAO; Jeffrey Mjaanes, M.D., FAAP, FACSM; Sue Walsh, D.N., Med, ATC, EMT; Amanda Lorenzen, as well as the NFL Alumni Chicago Chapter representatives Marc May and Bryce Fisher.

If you are interested in learning more about concussions and what you should do if you or a friend or family member is injured and are concerned, you should contact The Law Firm of Michael V. Favia & Associates to learn what steps you should take to protect the safety and future medical issues facing those who suffer from traumatic brain injury. The firm can also offer additional educational resources to better help the concerned.

Please feel free to keep the dialogue moving and leave your comments below. You can also keep in touch when you “Like” and “Follow” Michael V. Favia & Associates on Facebook and Twitter.