A medical assistant is an allied health worker who supports the works of physicians, doctors, and other health professionals, usually in setting of a clinic. They perform administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices and clinics of doctors and chiropractors running smoothly. They play both clinical and administrative roles. They may answer the telephone, greet patients and fill out medical records and update them as needed. They can schedule appointments and handle correspondence and billing.
Clinically, medical assistants are often the people who take medical histories, take part in preparation of patients for medical examination, providing assistance to the doctor during appointments and perform basic laboratory tests alongside other clinical responsibilities. What each medical officer does depends on the state law, office where he or she works and the needs of the assistant’s employer.
Just like any other careers, the medical assistants, being human are bound to make mistakes, and errors at some points in time during their operation. There are various legislations that have been put in place to either protect or punish them depending on the cause of the error and their role in the occurrence of the error.
Medical assistants are held to a high standard of care owing to their skills, intelligence, and knowledge. As professionals, they are required to have a standard minimum level of special knowledge and abilities. This is known as “duty of care”.
Medical assistants may commit a tort that can result in litigation. When it can be proven that an injury sustained by a patient was as a result of the medical assistant not meeting the standard of care governing their profession, then litigation is possibility.
There are types of torts that a medical assistant can commit; intentional and negligent. The intentional torts are a deliberate acts of violation of another person’s rights. Negligent offenses or torts are not deliberate and are the result of omission and commission of an act. Medical malpractice can be caused by many types of negligence ranging from a simple human error to gross negligence and they can cause significant harm to the patient. These acts of negligence by doctors or other healthcare professionals, can cause significant harm to the patients and their families. Sometimes they may even lead to death.
Medical negligence occurs when medical professionals fail to take reasonable precautions, or act in a way that results in damage, injury, harm or loss to another. Some common types of medical negligence include: human error malpractice, human malpractice, treatment errors, prescription drug or medication errors, failure to conduct proper examination, substandard care, treatment or surgery, and vicarious liability. Every healthcare provider, practitioner, and allied health professional and this includes the medical assistant is responsible for his or her own negligent acts since malpractice is defined as “the negligent act of a person with specialized training and education.”
A typical situation in which a medical assistant commits a negligence offense is when he/she uses an incorrect solution to clean a patient’s wound and the patient sustains further injuries to the wound or even an infection. In this case the provider-employer can be sued under the doctrine of respondent superior because the provider-employer is responsible for the acts of employees committed in the employment duration. The medical assistant can also be sued because individuals are responsible for the own actions. However, if the medical assistant uses the wrong type of solution to clean a patient’s wound and by chance the patient does not sustain any further injuries or infections to the wound, no harm has occurred and consequently a tort does not exist.
There are some few cases of medical mistakes which a medical assistant has no control over but there are many others which can be avoided with proper care. There are many ways of preventing negligence. There are guidelines which can be followed to prevent these errors.
Recognizing medical errors can be very helpful in prevention of the same errors since as the medical assistant familiarizes himself or herself with the various mistakes, they will be more aware and will consequently avoid them.
Before performing any major non-emergency medical procedure, or even a minor procedure that the medical assistant feels he/she is not concerned, it is always a good idea to ask for a doctor’s opinion. Using a second opinion is not a matter of lacking confidence or not knowing what one is doing but it rather is a matter of being responsible as possible for the safety and health of a patient.
The medical assistant can also prevent such errors by making sure that before they undertake any such operations on the patients, they sign a consent form in which they agree to cover for any liabilities that may arise during the relevant operations. This, in the event of the occurrence of any error, protect the medical assistant and the employer from covering for any damages that may arise during the relevant operations.
Every medical assistant is also advised to be careful and organize their workplace very well so that all the solutions, drugs and equipment are at good positions and are sterilized to prevent the patients from contracting any infections. The organization of the workplace will also prevent the worker from wasting time looking for any equipment and drugs since they will be well labelled and easily accessible.
It is also worth noting that prevention of this negligence is not the work of the medical assistants only. The patients also have a part to play in this prevention. They, for instance, need to check if the medical institution they visit to get treatment are actually certified. This will enable them to get medical care from qualified medical personnel who know the correct ways or treatment. This will allow them to get quality services and error-free services.
Patients are also advised to bring along their loved ones or a friend. This will allow them to get a representative who will help them think through important decisions and ask questions that the patient would not ask when undergoing a serious medical procedure. During such a time, having a second perspective will enable the patient to avoid getting into any form of harm.
Encouragement is also given to patients to be able to tell what they feel to the doctors and the medical assistants without hiding any details to avoid the doctors from misdiagnosing their ailments. By doing this, they would allow the doctor to make the correct decisions and prescribe the right kind of treatment to the patients.
Types of Medical Malpractice Negligence. (n.d.). Retrieved May 26, 2015, from http://sweeneylawfirm.com/content/types-medical-malpractice-negligence
Delmar’s Comprehensive Medical Assisting: Administrative and Clinical Competencies. (n.d.). Retrieved May 26, 2015, from https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=oGaeq8Ftd3gC&pg=PA117&lpg=PA117&dq=medical assistantnegligenceexamples&source=bl&ots=BJOwPOLaLV&sig=mXkWvmo0kIEcBgBQJGmADPo1994&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xWBkVdfOKKas7AbO5YC4BA&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=medicalassistantneglig