April 2018 Newsletter

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  • April 27, 2018

Improving patient care by removing threat of lawsuits

In an effort to better understand the impact that medical lawsuit abuse has on health care providers, a recent study granted immunity from liability lawsuits to practicing physicians – and studied the after affects.
Over the course of six years, 900 clinically active employed physicians at Jackson Memorial Hospital, part of the University of Miami, could be deemed agents of JMH and received the protections of sovereign immunity when they were providing medical care at a JMH facility.
Not only was there no negative impact on patient safety, but the number of harmful events decreased by 13 percent over a four-year period.
“This study suggests that without the threat of malpractice lawsuits, physicians are still committed to delivering the safest, highest quality patient care possible,” said Dr. David A. Lubarsky, chief medical and systems integration officer at the University of Miami Health System and the study’s lead author.
The immunity offered physicians an opportunity to treat patients without the threat of liability lawsuits, reducing the incentive to practice defensive medicine.
“An effective liability system should offer incentives to institutions that adopt safer systems,” Dr. Lubarsky said, citing better patient data sharing, education, safety management systems, electronic medical records with defaults to encourage best practices, and enhanced error reporting as examples. “These investments should result in fewer adverse events and increased quality than tort reform alone.”
To read more about the University of Miami Health System study in the journal of Health Management, Policy and Innovation (HMPI),  click here.

Advocates in Arkansas for liability reform

This November, voters in Arkansas will have an opportunity to help shape the future of health care in their state through a referendum on tort reform.
Issue 1, as the initiative is known, would amend the state constitution to limit attorney contingency fees and cap noneconomic damages in cases claiming personal injury, property damage or wrongful death. While the issue often has its share of adversaries, luckily for patients, there are a number of strong advocates across the state working to educate voters on the need for reform.
Working on behalf of Arkansans for Jobs and Justice to highlight the need for reasonable limits on attorney’s fees and non-economic damages, Carl Vogelpohl is leading the charge to help Arkansas grow jobs and recruit the doctors that Arkansans need to care for their families.
“Arkansas is ranked 50th in terms of environment for emergency care and the American College of Emergency Physicians has said, ‘to help combat its workforce shortages and improve overall access to emergency care, Arkansas should enact medical liability reforms,’” Vogelpohl emphasized.
The advocacy group was formed from a wide range of industries and organizations, including the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Medical Society, the Poultry Federation, Arkansas Health Care Association and Arkansas Trucking Association, with the intention of creating a better environment for companies to grow and patients to receive affordable care.
Senate passage brought the bill one step closer to bringing fairness and efficiency to Kentucky’s medical liability system, and the legislation now moves on to the state House for a vote.
To read more about advocates supporting the constitutional amendment in Arkansas, click here.

Pending reform, physicians urged to manage risk

While patients and physicians are left waiting for the follow-on benefits comprehensive federal liability reform would bring, physicians are urged to take action to avoid the threat of meritless lawsuits.
The insight from a recent Medical Economics column, cites future projections of an increase in liability claims.
A 2017 study of hospital professional liability by consulting firm Aon and the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management projects no increase in the number of claims below $2 million for 2018, but a 2 percent rise in claim severity. The study also noted “early signs” of a rise in the number of claims above $5 million, but the data wasn’t conclusive enough to quantify the increase.
“It’s not widespread, but we’re finally beginning to see some upward pressure on [malpractice insurance] rates,” says Chad Karls, FCAS, principal and consulting actuary for Milliman, a Brookfield, Wis.-based actuarial and consulting firm.
The practice management advice offered amidst an unfriendly liability climate includes reviewing vendor resources, ensuring hospital affiliation agreements are free of conflicts of interest, and paying particular attention to electronic health records to ensure referral and follow up details are documented.
To read more about risk management ahead of projected increases in liability costs, click here.

HCLA annual meeting adds momentum to medical liability reform efforts

Members of the Health Coalition on Liability and Access gathered in Washington, DC this month to discuss efforts on the road to reform in 2018.
Liability reform advocates Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Andy Harris, both physicians, were represented by staff members updating the team on how Congress can continue to play a role in reform, a year after the House passed comprehensive legislation that now awaits Senate consideration.
At the same time, the American Medical Association highlighted their work at the state level to ensure states with friendly liability climates continue to favor patients – not personal injury attorneys.
The group also heard from Cheryl M. De Kleine of Ascension Care Management and Leilani Schweitzer of The Risk Authority/Stanford on best practices among early communication and resolution programs.
The meeting concluded with board member elections, with Mike Stinson of PIAA continuing to serve as Chair of the HCLA, Katie Orrico of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons as Vice Chair, and Catherine Hayes of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons as Secretary. Other Executive Committee members include George Cox of the American Medical Association and Matthew Coffron of the American College of Surgeons. Congratulations and thank you for your continued leadership!