Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, and another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.* Because diabetes has the potential for serious complications and requires immense involvement by patients and physicians for successful outcomes, healthcare professionals who treat diabetic patients may be at risk for malpractice lawsuits.
In a study of claims closed from 2007 to 2013, The Doctors Company identified four common allegations made by patients with diabetes: improper management of treatment (37 percent), failure or delay in diagnosis (31 percent), failure to treat (9 percent), and improper management of medication regimens (6 percent).
Diabetic patients’ treatment is often managed by a multidisciplinary care team, which may include a primary care physician, endocrinologist, dietician, ophthalmologist, podiatrist, and dentist. When patients file claims, it’s not uncommon for them to name the entire care team in the complaint, alleging failure to properly diagnose, supervise, monitor, and/or treat their disease.
To promote patient safety, the healthcare team should engage the patient in collaborative care planning and problem solving to produce an individualized care plan as well as team support when problems are encountered. Other ways to promote patient safety and mitigate the risk of malpractice claims related to diabetes care are:
*American Diabetes Association. American Diabetes Month®. http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/american-diabetes-month.html. Accessed September 17, 2014.
The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider in light of all circumstances prevailing in the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.