Medical malpractice guidelines

Primum non nocere—the Latin phrase meaning ‘first do no harm’ is the first principle of medical ethics. If you feel a doctor has caused you harm by being negligent about his or her duty, you can sue that doctor for compensation and damages. Before you take legal action, you’ll need to make certain that negligence or medical malpractice has indeed been committed. You’ll need the services of a solicitor who specialises in medical law. Here are a few other considerations before you pursue a course of action that could prove costly:

Has medical malpractice occurred?

Medical malpractice or negligence is a broad term covering numerous omissions and commissions. Your doctor might have failed to diagnose the condition, aggravating your condition or delaying recovery. Improper treatment can be claimed when a doctor treats a patient in a way that no other doctor would recommend. Doctors also have the professional responsibility to warn the patients about known risks. Failure to forewarn about the risks, such as those associated with surgery, can be made the basis of a claim against a doctor.

What you’ll need to prove

In order for your lawsuit to be admissible in a court, you’ll need to prove that a doctor-patient relationship did exist. It means that you engaged the doctor and the doctor agreed to treat you. You can’t sue a doctor for a medical advice he gave at a dinner table and you happened to overhear.

For a successful lawsuit, you’ll need to convince the court that the doctor indeed committed negligence, which led to the injury. The court will consider the opinion of medical experts to determine whether the doctor should have taken an alternative course of treatment, and whether that could have produced a better outcome for the patient.

Lastly, you (and your lawyer) should show that the malpractice actually caused the injury. The injury can include physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, additional medical bills, and loss of earning or earning capacity. If no injury was caused by the negligence, you don’t have a claim.

Legal requirements for suing a doctor

Medical lawsuits are time-barred, which means that you are supposed to bring the case to court within a specified time limit after the injury occurred, usually between 6 and 18 months. The court will generally require the testimony of a medical expert.

The law holds medical organisations responsible for the actions of their employees. For all practical purposes, you should sue the individual. However, your attorney will be able to guide you better after going through the specifics of your case. You should consult an experienced medical-law attorney soon after you feel you should sue a doctor. Your lawyer will brief you about the legal requirements and documents that you need for filing a suit of damages against a doctor.

What will the process be like?

When you engage an attorney, they will generally bring the complaint to the notice of the concerned physician and organisation before filing a formal claim with the court. At times, the medical defence organisation or NHS Trust will accept negligence and the matter may be settled out of court, with your consent. If the defence organisation or NHS decides to contest your claim, it may take from one to several years before your case is decided.

Does it cost a lot of money?

No. Most law firms will agree to fight your case on a “no win, no fee” basis. You can also get Legal Aid or have the insurance cover the costs if you have a policy. In majority of the cases, the claimants don’t have to spend anything out of their pockets. 

Expert author: Garry McClean writes on heath and safety matters for the safety-steps.co.uk website – a leading UK manufacturer of mobile safety steps, maintenance platforms and office kick steps.

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From Telecare to mHealth—Using Technology for Better Health

Mobile health technologiesIt was none other than Albert Einstein who said that ‘technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal’. I wonder if he would hold the same opinion had he been using some of the telecare technologies that are available today. Thanks to the explosive growth of smartphones and tablets, healthcare providers across a rapidly digitalizing world are increasingly leaning on technology to remotely monitor and even treat their patients. The concept of telecare has evolved into ‘mobile health’ or ‘mHealth’, a term used for administering medicine and healthcare with the support of mobile devices.

Why Telecare?

Education about telecare is equally important for patients and healthcare professionals. As a patient, you can monitor your vitals, run tests, track your physical activity, make appointments, and stay in touch with your physician. As a healthcare pro, you can expand your reach using mHealth and telecare technologies. You can track the progress of your patients, reduce the number of personal visits, and make prescriptions on the go. Technology offers a lot of flexibility and convenience, apart from sharp improvements in the quality and promptness of healthcare delivery.

Telecare/mHealth Applications

Telecare and mHealth applications can vary widely. They have been successfully deployed in the following areas:

Public Awareness: Telecare and mHealth can be used for cautioning the public against seasonal diseases like flu or asthma, or against epidemics like malaria or hay fever. People can be made more aware about a healthier lifestyle for improving the overall health of a population or group. Text messaging is being generally used for the purpose these days.

Helpline: While typically a helpline consists of a religiously manned phone number that a patient is able to call in emergency, mHealth has expanded the definition to include online chat support and mobile apps. You can set and cancel appointments and reduce the number of one-on-one clinic visits by using a voice or data helpline or a mobile app.

Diagnostic and Treatment Support: NHS Direct has launched a mobile app that allows you to access professional and reliable diagnostic and treatment advice right from your smartphone. The app can help you diagnose and get instant advice for conditions such as dental pain, diarrhoea and vomiting, abdominal pain, rashes, back pain, burns, flu, and hay fever. This is just one of the apps available and different healthcare providers have developed customized apps for increasing the efficiency and reach of their services.

Chronic Disease Management: Technologies are becoming available to monitor patients 24×7 at their homes. You can use mobile apps to track vitals, keep tabs on blood glucose levels, and even run urine tests. Gadgets like Jawbone and other activity trackers help you improve healthcare for patients who need regular walking, such as obesity and hypertension patients. There are mobile apps that send an SMS to the physician whenever the vitals are getting out of the preset ranges, allowing the physician to make prescriptions or suggest a course of action through their smartphones. Apps can even help patients stick to their medication plans.

Training of Healthcare Workers: Using mobile apps and Internet, healthcare workers can be connected to sources of information such as medical institutions, government organisations, or hubs of healthcare data. Healthcare workers can also be connected with each other for facilitating communications and referrals. Each worker can be focused upon individually for the purpose of imparting training, and their progress can be tracked using mobile apps.

The advent of mobile technology has transformed telecare and opened doors to new possibilities. It’s an area that is still evolving as newer apps and better gadgets are continually becoming available.

Author: Dr Garry J. McCLean is a staff writer at The Workplace Depot and also contributes to a wide variety of magazines and websites on health issues.

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Can technology help with an ageing society?

ageing society and the benefits of technologyThe percentage of the UK population that are over 65 is increasing at such a rate that it will be virtually impossible to sustain the current levels of hospital and social care. The figures below show the growth in the elderly population:

Number of people over 65 in the United Kingdom:
1985 – 15% of the population
2010 – 17% of the population
2035 – 23% of the population

In 1985 about 8.5 million people were over the age of 65 and in 2035 this will be approximately 18 million reflecting the fact that people are living longer and also that the population as a whole will rise. In other words the number of 65+ people will have more than doubled in the space of just 50 years. 1985 there were about 57 million living in the UK, whereas in 2035 there will be an estimated 77 million of us, but the additional population will be nowhere near enough to absorb the huge % rise in the elderly population.

Can Telecare and telehealth technologies come to the rescue?

There are two broad areas where technology can help:

  • Monitoring and surveillance – where someone’s health can be monitored remotely and warnings given if something goes wrong
  • Assistive technologies – devices to help people in their everyday life

Both of these technologies can be fitted in the home allowing independent living to go on for as long as possible. Falling down in the home accounts for about 50% of elderly hospital admissions, so anything that can detect this or provide early warning signs, could reduce the amount of hospital emergency care that might be required. The University of Manchester for example are working on a pressure sensitive carpet underlay that can detect falls.

Is it all a bit Big Brother?

Early illness detection could be seen as being a bit ‘big brother’ especially in relation to the collection of data. However, as in many things health-related, early detection normally saves money in the long term. It is possible for examples to monitor a drop in someone’s blood sugar via a chip that transmits data to a mobile phone and display a warning to the medical supervisor.

In a study conducted in 2008 looking at three conditions – diabetes, heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it was shown that there could be a 14% reduction in number of beds, a 20% reduction in emergency admissions and a 45% reduction in mortality when certain telecare and telehealth technologies were introduced.

Human element of caring for elderly

Another problem associated with telecare and telehealth technologies is it does not replace the ‘care’ element and there is a danger that people get to feel trapped in their own homes. Professor Sharkey of the University of Sheffield summed this issue up well when he commented,
‘If people are fully monitored, if they fall over you can be in there in a second; that sounds great. But if you set up an alerting system so that if anything happens at all you can get medics in there very quickly, there is no reason for seeing them the rest of the time. What I am worried about losing is the element of care.’

Assistive and monitoring technologies cannot replace social contact and the human element of caring.

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Telecare and Telehealth in the news

There seems to have been a larger than usual number of telecare-related items in the mainstream press recently, so we decided to make a short list of some of the topics being discussed:

Heathcare technology newsHigh-tech devices to meet housing and care needs of older people (FT 31 May)

To help deal with the issue of an aging population, we should be looking at some telecare advances from the US including robot friends, granny pods and smart vests. The article also cites the rising cost of looking after the elderly: the over 65′s will be 25% of the population by 2050 and already they consume 40% of all NHS spending. see article

BBC Newsnight, 4 June

Looked a various forms of wearable techniologies – some of the benefits but also data protection issues.

3millionlives – press release, 6 June 2013

Over 100,000 people benefitted from technology enable services in 2012 – important achievement with a target of 3 million lives by 2016. Survey with 80 organisations to estimate new people benefitting from telecare services – see press release

DIY test will save your life: gadget sends blood pressure results direct to your GP – Daily Express May 31

High blood pressure is one of the most important preventable risk factors in early death – device will monitor, send text messages and put data on a website for patients and doctors to see if medications needs to be modified – Daily Express

Electroceuticals: swapping drugs for devices – Wired 28 May 2013

Bioelectronics uses electrical impulses to modulate the body’s neural circuits rather than traditional medicines and drugs. The article looks at how close we are to achieving targeted “electroceuticals”? Read the article here

 

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Well-being Apps for Free

Well-being appsThere are many incredible things that mobile phones can now do, so at Telecareplus we thought it was about time we looked at some of the best apps for health and well-being. Some of these Apps can help in losing weight, help with exercise, building fitness and relaxation. We have outlined below a brief description of what the app does plus look at some of its unique or interesting functions.

Healthy food

Foodily is a recipe database which lets users collect recipes, share them, and keep track of anything you really like. You can can browse for recipes and enjoy the best ones with friends, family and chefs.
Available for iOS

Weight

Weight Watchers Mobile gives you the full Weight Watchers experience and includes calorie counting and activity trackers. It also has meal and recipes ideas, personal analytics and much more. There’s enough data to help monitor your progress without getting too technical and there is also an app which can scan bar codes to provide valuable health information.
Available for iOS and Android.

Relaxation and general well-being

calm - this app is designed to reduce stress and bring a little more calm into your life. It offers a seven-step program through seven guided relaxation sessions (ranging from 2 to 30 minutes) and 10 beautiful natural scenes for your phone ‘wallpaper’. There is a cool two-minute option to help users chill out.
Available for iOS.

Fitness

Nike Training Club
Choose fitness goals and the app provides over 100 workouts to get you on the fast track to fitness. There are 15, 30 and 45-minute workouts with audio guidance and video demonstrations from top Nike sports trainers and athletes and best of all requires no expensive equipment or personal trainers!
Available for iOS and Android.

The Mind

Lumosity Brain Trainer
A kind of gym for your brain (developed by neuroscientists) and featuring games that enhance creativity, memory and concentration. You even use it to see how well you sleep and how this effects brainpower and your general well-being.
Available for iOS.

Telecareplus author Tim Hill

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Google glasses – could this be a telecare breakthrough?

Google Glasses - courtesy of GoogleThere has been considerable speculation recently about Google Glasses - eyeglasses that have an integrated computer and camera – and the possible benefits to the healthcare sector. Here are a few thoughts on immediate applications for the glasses:

Helping surgeons during procedures

Making it easier to look at X-rays or close-up views of an operation. It is possible that pre-operative imaging could be made accessible to the surgeon without them having to even change their posture. There could also be a role for them in training medical students with certain types of procedure.

Proctoring from a distance

The glasses will have a camera and wi-fi connection so could allow one practioner to guide another one from anywhere in the world. The technology will revolutionise the data age but may also distance the doctor – patient relationships still further

Quick references that Google Glasses can provide

During an operation a surgeon could look up a piece of information or even a previous operations that they have done. The ability to be able to speak instructions and then see the results right in front of their eyes could spark massive changes in operating theatres.

Could future hospitals end up with 100s of goggle wearing medical staff operating in a semi virtual reality world? And then there is the advertising potential for Google aimed at a almost captive audience! Watch this space!

 

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