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Weaknesses Of The Current Malpractice System

Medical malpractice reform is in the news again. Of course, for the medical profession, the medical malpractice system is the wound that simply will not heal. For the plaintiffs bar, in contrast, the medical liability system is the gift that keeps on giving. I have argued that the current system fails on four important fronts.

  • Efficiency
  • Cost
  • Fairness
  • Quality Improvement

I admit readily that my profession has not been as diligent as it should be in holding ourselves accountable. We have not been forthright in admitting our medical errors, although can you blame us under the current medical liability construct? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

Medical Malpractice Reform: Would Doctors Accept The Deal?

The bipartisan debt commission appointed by President Obama recently released its recommendations on how to pare the country’s debt.

Of interest to doctors is the suggestion to change the way doctors are paid. Physician lobbies have been advocating for removal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula — the flawed method by which Medicare, and subsequently private insurers, pays doctors. According to this method, physicians are due for a pay cut of more than 20 percent next month.

According to the commission:

The plan proposes eliminating the SGR in 2015 and replacing it with a “modest reduction” for physicians and other providers. The plan doesn’t elaborate on what constitutes a “modest reduction” in Medicare reimbursement.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should establish a new payment system — one that rewards doctors for quality, and includes accountable care organizations and bundling payments by episodes of care, the report said.

The commission also said in order to pay for the SGR reform, medical malpractice lawyers should be paid less, there should be a cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, and that comprehensive tort reform should be adopted.

There’s little question that associating physician reimbursements with the number of tests and treatments ordered is a major driver of health costs. Removing that incentive, and better valuing the time doctors spend with patients, is a positive step in the right direction. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

Medical Malpractice: Perspectives From A Doctor And A Lawyer

Medical malpractice is a major issue that divides doctors and lawyers — with patients often left in the middle. I wrote last year in USA Today that reform is sorely needed, mainly to help injured patients be compensated more quickly and fairly than they currently are:

Researchers from the New England Journal of Medicine found that nearly one in six cases involving patients injured from medical errors received no payment. For patients who did receive compensation, they waited an average of five years before their case was decided, with one-third of claims requiring six years or more to resolve. These are long waits for patients and their families, who are forced to endure the uncertainty of whether they will be compensated or not.

And with 54 cents of every dollar injured patients receive used to pay legal and administrative fees, the overhead costs clearly do not justify this level of inefficiency.

In this video excerpt from The Vanishing Oath, a film directed by Ryan Flesher, M.D., perspectives from both sides are given, and it’s easy to see why this contentious issue isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon:

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

How Should We Define Medical Malpractice?

Ezra kindly responds to my post from Friday with a more reasoned stance than “just don’t commit malpractice.” His response, however, boils down to two main theses:

  1. Frivolous Lawsuits are not as common as generally thought, and
  2. Standardization can reduce the opportunity for error and thus decrease the frequency of medical malpractice suits.

Well, yes, but I’m not sure that addresses the typical physician’s complaints regarding the current med-mal system.

For example, the “frivolous” moniker is a pretty ambiguous term, especially to doctors’ loose understanding of legal terminology. To a physician, a “frivolous” case is one in which there was no error — where the standard of care was met, but perhaps the outcome was bad. Or to put it another way, doctors tend to feel that when they are vindicated in court, it’s prima facie evidence that the case was frivolous. This conviction is bolstered by the little-recognized fact that physicians win the vast majority of cases that actually go to trial, and the vast majority of claims filed do not result in a financial settlement. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

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