I discussed my thoughts on risk and how all physicians theoretically carry the same risk, not because one field has more bad outcomes than another (which they obviously do) but because all physicians are trained to be experts in their field of training. This expert training should theoretically create no difference in risk between different subspecialties, as long as all physicians practice within their scope of practice.
In a follow up post, I discussed my experience with discharging patients from the emergency department and how this increased my risk exposure not because the science of the discharge is wrong, but rather because the perception of negligence is greater. I discussed the irrational standards of care that have been created out of a legal necessity to avoid litigation at all costs. An irrational standard that creates exponentially infinite costs that are bankrupting this country with little to no benefit to society as a whole. By expecting perfection on an individual basis, an expectation that will never be achieved, we are risking the implosion of affordable care for all. This is physician driven. Driven out of a fear of bad outcomes, which sets irrational standards, which creates negligence when those impossible standards cannot be achieved.
And a reader hit the nail on the head with this comment. I couldn’t have said it any better.
as a hospitalist, you are at the bottom of the funnel in the risk cascade.
If you continue to send pts home from the ER, by numbers alone, somebody is going to have a bad outcome and it’s all going to fall on you.
If you are willing to accept this, more power to you.
Problem X- undifferentiated, high risk, broad ddx type problem.
ie chest pain, dyspnea,abdominal pain,fever,headache, etc.
PMD busy in office, doesn’t want to deal with it.
sends pt to ER for “work-up”
-if something goes awry, “I knew he was sick, so I sent him to the ER”.
ER gets pt, checks a “pan-panel” and multiple imaging studies.
If anything turns up–admit to hospitalist.
If negative-“I don’t know what’s wrong, better admit.”
Hospitalist is now last one standing; if send pt home and adverse outcome= “Doc HH, you mean two physicians thought this pt was too sick to be at home, yet you sent them home?”
Safe move is to always admit–as you say, if adverse outcome in house, doesn’t seem as bad.
Now, you have a three way risk pie–and any specialists that were called to consult.
Not great medicine, but the risks are too high to hold it all by yourself
I can’t tell you how true this is. This is the basis of establishing irrational standards of care. The last bolded section says it all. You the patient, have become the legal hot potato in your journey through your illness. The rational being, if you put the responsibility of certain aspects of care on someone else, it is that someone else who will ultimately be responsible should a bad outcome occur.
The lawyers want you to believe this doesn’t exist. I can tell you categorically, 100%, without a doubt that patients are treated like hot potatoes, in one way or another, with just about every encounter they experience in American medicine.
I have a really hard time playing that game when I have experience and science on my side. At some point, physicians need to be held accountable for the irrational standards they have implemented out of fear and establish standards based on most likely plausible explanations, not the least likely explanation. Until we can do that for our profession, we are a big part of the problem for the financing of this country’s health care needs.
*This blog post was originally published at A Happy Hospitalist*