Patients have to put a great deal of trust in their health care providers when they require care. After all, nurses, doctors and surgeons can quite literally hold your life in their hands. However, while earlier generations may have had great confidence in their medical providers, today only 34% of Americans trust their doctor.

This lack of trust in the health care system isn’t exactly unwarranted. Alarmingly, medical malpractice is currently the third leading cause of death in the United States. The verdict of all medical malpractice cases relies on whether or not a licensed health care professional properly followed the medical standard of care.

Understanding medical standard of care

The medical standard of care for patients is an expected level of skill, knowledge and expertise from the care of their doctor. Essentially, standard of care asks whether a normal and competent health care professional with the same medical background and expertise would provide the same treatment under similar circumstances.

In a medical malpractice case, the patient harmed must prove that their doctor was negligent and did not adhere to the medical standard of care. If a reasonable and competent doctor would not have provided the same type of treatment – or lack of treatment – in their specific case, then the doctor in question is negligent.

Understanding best practices

The medical standard of care may also refer to whether or not a medical professional followed formal or informal best practices when providing treatment. Best practices are the regulations and protocols that the medical community agrees are the most appropriate for the treatment of a disease or condition.

All clinical practice guidelines are maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Medical professionals must stay current on the standard of care for their specific area of expertise. If a doctor does not follow these treatment protocols for your care, they are not meeting the medical standard of care.

Finding a doctor you can trust

If you are concerned that the medical treatment you are receiving doesn’t hold up to the medical standard of care, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion from another licensed physician. Your health and well-being are too important for compromise.