May 2016 Newsletter


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  • May 31, 2016

Encouraging Candor between Physicians, Patients

Thanks to a multi-million dollar liability reform grant initiative, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has announced the availability of an online toolkit to assist physicians and healthcare providers with resources to facilitate open communications with patients and that could reduce the number of liability claims.

The toolkit expands upon the Communication and Optimal Resolution (CANDOR) process that the Agency encourages when adverse or unintended outcomes occur following a medical procedure. The process followed a $23 million Patient Safety and Medical Liability grant initiative made with the goal of reducing medical liability.

The CANDOR process was tested and applied in 14 hospitals across three health systems, which plan to expand its use: Christiana Care in Delaware, Dignity Health in California, and MedStar Health in Baltimore/Washington, D.C.

Writing on the Agency for Healthcare Research’s blog, Director Andy Bindman, MD, explains the benefits of CANDOR and the toolkit to patients and physicians. While maintaining the ability to pursue claims through the legal system, “it fosters open discussion with patients and families to resolve matters in a timely and appropriate manner.”

As important as these incremental reforms are, they elevate the need for a comprehensive federal solution, to eliminate a patchwork of laws that vary state to state and to ensure that care is affordable, and accessible, to all patients.

To read more about the CANDOR process and the tools available to physicians that could reduce instances of medical liability lawsuits, click here.

Liability Supporters in NY Mean Business

When a recent editorial piece in the Poughkeepsie Journal highlighted the ways that New York could improve its business climate and encourage economic growth, a follow-up letter to the editor was quick to point out another key driver – medical liability reform.

Highlighting the fact that a broken system unfairly burdens small businesses, a representative from the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York writes that “Doctors, patients and public institutions are directly impacted by New York’s litigation friendly medical policies,” based on the medical liability data that showed New York had the highest liability payouts per capita in 2015.

One quick fix the writer suggests that would improve the business and liability climate in the state is a change in the expert witness requirements.

“…Aligning New York’s standards for expert testimony with those used in other states… would prevent “junk science” from entering our courtrooms,” he states.
Advertisements for economic opportunity in the state may declare that New York is “open for business,” but the harsh liability climate and the difficulties that patients have in getting access to care certainly suggest otherwise.

To read more about how medical liability reform would benefit New York businesses, click here.

State MPL Bills Move Forward

Both good and bad medical liability legislation continues to move through state legislatures, with recent efforts in Louisiana and South Carolina.

On the bad side, Louisiana legislators are considering a bill to dramatically raise their damage caps for certain individuals who suffer specific injuries. The legislation, SB 78, is currently moving through the state Senate. It would create an exception to the state’s medical liability damages cap for any child who suffers a “catastrophic brain injury,” which is defined as the partial or total loss of use of a limb, or paraplegia or quadriplegia. If enacted, it would raise the cap to ten-fold, to $5 million, exclusive of future medical benefits.

In South Carolina, legislators took the opposite approach in order to expand access to care for the neediest. Legislation to protect healthcare volunteers was approved unanimously by both the House and Senate and was just signed into law by Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC). The law (H 4999) grants immunity from liability for specially licensed volunteer healthcare providers. The bill applies to healthcare providers whose licenses limit them to providing uncompensated care in specific locales and practice settings. In addition, patients must be notified in advance of treatment that the provider has immunity from liability for the services being rendered.