Archives: May 2012

Patients Benefit from Texas Tort Reform

SAN DIEGO – Since the state of Texas implemented medical tort reform in 2003, the number of practicing physicians has increased by 19% per 100,000 population. In addition, hospitals in the state report improved ability to recruit physicians and expand patient services. Those are key findings from an innovative study presented by Dr. Ronald M. Stewart at the annual Digestive Disease Week. "Tort reform has been beneficial for all or almost all Texas physicians," Dr. Stewart said in an interview in advance of the meeting. "I have benefited from lower malpractice premiums and a more favorable liability climate in the state. However, the effect of tort reform in a region is probably not the primary driver for physician recruitment and retention. I believe it is permissive – providing the framework for growing physicians relative to the number of patients being served," he explained. The data show that, in the decade from 2002 to 2012, the Texas population went from 21,779,893 to 26,403,743 – a 21% increase – and the number of Texas physicians rose by 15,611 – a 44% increase (46% in metro areas vs. 9% in nonmetro areas). This absolute change led to an increase of 30 physicians per…

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Without Reforms, Michigan Faces Physician Shortages

It's not in Gov. Rick Snyder's health care plan, but medical malpractice tort reforms could help Michigan deal with a nationwide doctor shortage. Other states — Texas most recently — have overtaken reforms Michigan adopted in the 1980s and 1990s. Loopholes and ambiguous legal provisions are eroding controls that once made this state a national leader in avoiding unwarranted and overblown liability awards, according to the Michigan State Medical Society. That could make it harder to recruit enough doctors to meet the growing needs of an aging population, not to mention the expected surge in newly insured families under the 2009 federal affordable health care act. Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, a cardiologist, argues that without new reforms Michigan's doctor dearth is likely to grow. Even if we take this step, trends aren't in our favor. One in every four Michigan doctors is older than 60 and approaching retirement, says the Medical Society, which represents about 16,000 Michigan doctors. Studies suggest the state will have a shortage of more than 4,500 physicians in fields such as pediatrics and internal medicine by 2020. Almost two-thirds of the state's doctors told the Medical Society in 2010 that their practices were full and they…

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Physicians, Patients Face Long Road in Liability Lawsuits

(Reuters Health) – Malpractice claims against U.S. doctors are often dismissed, and when they go to trial, the verdict is usually in the doctor's favor, according to a new study. But even when a case is dismissed, the road is typically long for both doctors and the patients suing, researchers said. "Most claims go in favor of the physician, and they take a long time to resolve," said lead researcher Dr. Anupam B. Jena, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Medical malpractice claims have become a hot-button issue in the U.S., coming up repeatedly in debates about healthcare reform. Some specialists must pay a couple hundred thousand dollars a year in premiums for insurance against malpractice claims — though rates vary by state. But not much has been known about how long malpractice claims take to resolve, or what proportion of them actually end in a payment to patients, according to Jena. For their study, he and his colleagues looked at more than 10,000 malpractice claims against U.S. doctors closed between 2002 and 2005. They found that of all claims, about 55 percent resulted in an actual lawsuit. Of those litigated claims, more than half were…

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Massachusetts hospitals undertake new approach to malpractice cases

In an effort to improve the state’s malpractice system, seven Massachusetts hospitals are participating in a pilot program designed to offer patients harmed by medical errors prompt apologies and financial settlements, reports the Boston Globe. The alliance of hospitals taking part in the new initiative include Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, and Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware. Striving for an environment of openness Championed by the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) and patterned after a plan successfully implemented by the University of Michigan Health System 10 years ago, the initiative, called “Roadmap to Reform,” proposes a process of disclosure, apology and offer (DA&O). The new system is meant as an alternative to the current system of litigation, considered by many health professionals as inefficient and responsible in part for driving health costs higher, stated the MMS in a news release. “The current approach to medical liability is onerous for both patients and physicians,” said Alan Woodward, MD, chair of the MMS Committee on Professional Liability and past president of the organization. “It discourages transparency, inhibits communication between caregivers and patients, burdens physicians with excessive premiums,…

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May 2012 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 7, Issue 5 May 2012 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: Physicians, Patients Face Long Road in Liability Lawsuits Without Reforms, Michigan Faces Physician Shortages Patients Benefit from Texas Tort Reform Physicians, Patients Face Long Road in Liability Lawsuits A new study in this month’s Archives of Internal Medicine details just how long medical liability claims take to resolve – even when cases are dropped or dismissed. Lead researcher Dr. Anupam B. Jena looked at more than 10,000 liability claims against physicians that closed between 2002 and 2005. Only about 55 percent of all claims filed resulted in an actual lawsuit, and more than half of those lawsuits were dismissed by the courts. Many more were settled far before a verdict was reached. Only five percent of the cases ended up being decided by a jury. Dr. Jena’s study reported that of the small number of cases that resulted in a trial verdict, the verdict was in favor of the physician 80 percent of the time. However, the length of time that physicians and patients were consumed by the lawsuits was troubling. On average, cases dismissed by the court took 20 months to make their way through…

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Results are in – and Americans Understand High Cost of Broken Liability System

NEW YORK, May 29, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — A new nationwide poll finds that heavy majorities of voters across party lines believe that the legal system is increasing health care costs. The survey also found that 66 percent of voters favor taking medical claims out of the current legal system and putting them into new health courts with expert judges. The poll was conducted for Common Good by Clarus Research Group. Among the poll's key findings are the following: A strong majority of voters––75 percent––believe "lawsuits and legal fees are a major cause of high medical insurance rates." Eighty-nine percent of Republicans, 76 percent of independents and 62 percent of Democrats agree on this. Sixty-eight percent agree that "plenty of good doctors are leaving the practice of medicine because of the number of lawsuits and the cost of liability insurance." Seventy-eight percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents agree. Two-thirds (67 percent) of voters say they believe that "fear of being sued is causing doctors to order unnecessary medical tests and procedures just to protect themselves from possible lawsuits." Seventy-five percent of Republicans, 67 percent of independents and 59 percent of Democrats concur. Nearly two-thirds (66 percent)…

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