Liability reform elevated to presidential debate state

Earlier this month, one presidential candidate offered up a tried and true way to improve access to patient care while lowering costs for Americans — through medical liability reform.

A Wall Street Journal editorial covered how presidential candidate Nikki Haley touted the benefits of medical liability reform for the most financially vulnerable patients in order to drive down costs by reducing defensive medicine.

“You’ve got to deal with tort law,” Haley said. “The doctors don’t give you the 10 tests because they want to. It’s because of the 90% chance they’ll get sued.”

While Haley may have cited a high figure on the prevalence of being sued, the underlying fact remains: physicians increasingly seek to protect themselves from the threat of being sued by ordering unnecessary medical tests.

The editorial highlighted the indirect costs of inaction on medical liability. Patient access to quality medical care is threatened as physicians become unable and unwilling to treat high-risk patients and move their practices to states with reasonable liability climates.

In many states, these costs are borne through staggering liability insurance premiums, reaching more than $200,000 per year in Florida and Illinois.

So it is no surprise to PPN readers that “more provider choice and competition can reduce costs for patients,” as the editorial states, and such reforms are a critical part of fixing what ails the U.S. health care system.

To read more about support for medical liability reform at the federal level and a Presidential candidate’s prescription for change, click here.

Dr. AI?

As interest in the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) in the health care field grows, providers and insurers are collaborating to better understand its impact on medical liability.

While AI and machine learning can have patient benefits, including the ability to rapidly identify complex diagnostic patterns and improve consistency by reducing human error, limitations remain that could open health care providers to liability lawsuits.

Additionally, lack of widespread adoption means that not all practitioners are familiar with AI capabilities, resulting in gaps in regulatory guidance and requirements.

For many providers, “there is a deliberately instituted pause on bringing some of that technology into the care and clinical setting,” said Martha Jacobs, national health care practice leader at Aon PLC. “There’s not this wholesale rush to pull in AI at this stage because there’s still so much unknown about it.”

Still, interest in AI and machine learning remains high among health care practitioners. In a Clinician of the Future 2023 survey, 48% of clinicians globally supported using AI in clinical decision-making.

This pause prior to adoption allows the health care industry to figure out the bias, the regulatory complexities and the responsible use of AI as a tool in health care “because the focus has to be patient safety, but there are ethical considerations,” said Deepika Srivastava, executive vice president of medical professional liability for The Doctors Co. in Napa, California.

Click here to read more on the collaboration around AI’s impact on medical liability.

Ohio court fails to extend peer review privilege to physician residents

After an appellate court ruled otherwise, it’s up to Ohio’s highest court to weigh in on health care providers’ peer review privilege and ensure that it protects the future pipeline of physicians.

The state’s appellate court erred in not protecting physician residents from overreaching medical lawsuit abuse when it concluded that peer review privileges didn’t cover residency files.

Now, The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies, the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA), the Ohio Hospital Association and the Ohio Osteopathic Association have filed an amicus brief urging the state’s highest court to overturn the appellate court ruling.

The amicus brief explains that because residents have a limited scope of practice, they have a different credentialing and evaluation process than fully licensed physicians. In response, the health care system in question has set up a separate peer-review committee for residents.

“Given their evolving knowledge and clinical experience, resident physicians need the same assurance as fully licensed physicians—if not more—that confidential information generated during peer review for performance and quality improvement purposes will not be used against them in a future civil action,” says the amicus brief that the AMA Litigation Center, OSMA and others filed in the case, Stull et al. v. Summa Health Systems et al.

Without protection, physician residents cannot engage in candid conversations at the most critical juncture — the start of their careers in caring for patients.

The amicus brief makes it clear that the actions taken by the appellate court “misconstrued the peer review process for resident physicians,” making them more vulnerable to medical lawsuit abuse and further jeopardizing the future physician population.

To read more about the efforts underway in Ohio to protect physician residents, click here.