Positive Outlook - Issue 2.0 - May 2013

Complaints that Lead to Malpractice Claims/PPIX Recommendations

We are witnessing claims generated by innocuous phone calls for calf pain/swelling (with or without a procedure) that were caused by a DVT. A patient may call and say, “my calf is swollen, but I just had knee surgery”. Often, the patient is told by office staff to elevate the leg, ice it, and call if it gets worse. This process has not worked for many situations where the patients complaints were secondary to an undiagnosed DVT and they went on to experience a PE. The doctor and the corporation were both sued. 

We know that most of us believe “this cannot happen in our office”. “Our front desk would never answer a patient in that manner”. However, it does happen in good practices which have good procedures. It is worth double checking with your staff. 

Our recommendation is for front desk staff/office nurses to be instructed to refer these complaints directly to a physician and/or send the patient to the emergency department for an ultrasound. If a DVT results in a PE there is a high probability that you will be in litigation. To the best of our knowledge, nobody has ever been sued for a negative ultrasound.