Archives: July 2014

July 2014 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 9, Issue 7 July 2014 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: Hope Looms Large for Liability Reform Time in Courtroom Exceeds Time in Classroom for Most Physicians Operating Room Black Box Protecting Patients California’s Proposition 46 Implications Brought To Light Hope Looms Large for Liability Reform While medical liability claims and rates rise and fall, and uncertainty regarding the threat of meritless lawsuits remains on the minds of physicians across the country, a recent Medscape article confirms that hope may be on the horizon for those who continue to push for a solution to the medical liability crisis. In states where comprehensive reforms have passed the situation is looking up for patients in search of access to quality, affordable care. According to a report published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reasonable limits of $250,000 on noneconomic damages have reduced average awards by 20 to 30 percent in states that have passed patient-focused liability reforms, with physicians’ premiums rising 6 to 13 percent more slowly than in states that have not. While data has been insufficient to determine the full impact of other types of reforms, promising results are being seen in “Sorry” laws and an early offer…

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Med-mal caps in the crosshairs as trial lawyers attack California’s landmark act

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) – A landmark act constraining the amount of money plaintiffs attorneys and their clients can reap from medical malpractice lawsuits has come under fire by California trial lawyers – an expensive battle that may end up spreading to other states. Enacted in 1975, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, which caps non-economic damages at $250,000, has become a model for more than half the states in the country. The movement to inflate the MICRA cap gained substantial momentum on May 15, when a ballot measure, known as Proposition 46, netted the 500,000-plus signatures required to qualify for the November ballot. Prop 46, which seeks to quadruple the current cap on medical liability lawsuits to $1.1 million with annual increases going forward, has spurred Golden State watchdog groups such as California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse into action against the forces they believe are pushing the initiative forward – trial lawyers. “The trial lawyers are the ones most solidly behind it,” CALA Executive Director Tom Scott said. “They’re the ones that paid to get the signatures on the ballot. The trial lawyers are the ones that want it passed, period.” Consumer Attorneys of California, the lead faction backing…

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Doctors Spend More Time in the Courtroom Than the Classroom

Medical malpractice suits are time consuming and emotionally draining. The average physician spends more time—about 11 percent of his or her career—embroiled in malpractice litigation than it takes to complete medical school. Most claims consume two years prior to resolution, and nearly twice that much time elapses since the event in question. The defensive medicine practiced by health professionals to avoid lawsuits costs an estimated $60 billion annually, based on a survey of more than 1,200 physicians. That does not include the cost of carrying liability insurance. Many say the cost of defending—and avoiding—medical liability suits is siphoning funds away from needed health-care delivery reforms and infrastructure expenditures. Consultant PwC, relying on that CBO report, estimated that malpractice insurance and defensive medicine accounted for 10 percent of total health-care costs. A 2010 Health Affairs article more conservatively pegged those costs at 2.4 percent of healthcare spending. In a 2010 survey, U.S. orthopedic surgeons bluntly admitted that about 30 percent of tests and referrals were medically unnecessary and done to reduce physician vulnerability to lawsuits. Whether a physician practices defensive medicine may depend more on a doctor’s fear of being sued than the level of pain-and-suffering damage caps and insurance premiums…

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Is There Any Hope for Malpractice Reform?

There Are Rays of Hope Medical malpractice continues to loom large in the minds of just about every practicing physician. Claims and rates are declining, but the problem of lawsuits against physicians is far from tapering off. And upcoming changes in medicine due to doctor/hospital consolidations and uncertainty about the impact of the Affordable Care Act may bring more developments. Michael Matray, Editor of Medical Liability Monitor, says, “The situation has definitely improved in the past five years,” in part because of the emphasis on risk management, with physicians receiving credits for attending seminars and advice from risk managers in their offices on how to do better. “Supporters of tort reform have been very successful over the past couple of years,” he adds, and it’s now very difficult to bring a claim to trial. “It’s expensive for plaintiff attorneys; they have to invest a lot and may not be able to make a profit,” he says. Although claims are at a historic low and claims frequency is down, he says, malpractice insurance is still a “giant investment in the physician’s work life. It would be wrong to ask doctors, ‘Why are you complaining?’” But to defense attorney Michael Sacopulos of…

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‘Black box’ tracks errors in Toronto operating room

A “black box” installed in a Toronto operating room earlier this year has found that surgical teams are making the vast majority of their errors during the same two steps surgery after surgery. Now researchers are looking at how to reduce those mistakes and prevent similar slips in the future. Dr. Teodor Grantcharov, who developed the operating room black box compares using the technology to learning how to golf. “Usually we can’t appreciate our performance while we’re in the middle of the operation,” said Grantcharov, a surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital. “You swing and you think you’ve done a great job and someone video records it and shows you how you’ve done and obviously there are so many things to improve.” Three microphones and three cameras began recording all of Grantcharov’s surgeries at the end of April as part of the black box project. Two of the cameras film the operating room, while a third internal camera records what’s happening inside the patient’s body while the surgeon and his team perform minimally invasive surgeries. The video and audio collected is then analyzed by a team, who look at surgical techniques, the surgical team’s communication and how they work together, and…

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