Record Breaking Demand for Doctors in Texas

Marking 13 years since landmark medical liability reform was passed, Texas had a record year for new physician applications, highlighting the demand that exists for physicians and a friendly liability climate.

New physician applications increased last fiscal year to 5,544 – a three percent increase over the previous year’s record-setting number of 5,377, and double the number received when a medical liability crisis peaked in Texas in 2003.

Not only are physicians attracted to the state by its liability climate, but an increasing senior population – and their need for greater access to care – has also been factor. According to the Texas Alliance for Patient Access (TAPA), the state’s 65 and above population has grown 50 percent over the course of the last 13 years.

When the state passed comprehensive liability reform in 2003, the tide of physicians leaving the state reversed.

“One hundred eighteen Texas counties have seen a net gain in emergency medicine physicians since the passage of reforms. That includes 53 counties that previously had none,” commented Howard Marcus, MD, the chairman of TAPA. “That turnaround would not have occurred without the passage of our landmark reforms,” he said.

To read more about the demand for doctors in Texas, click here.

Athletes Notch Access to Care Win

Scoring big in the House of Representatives this month was H.R. 921, the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act, a bill to reduce medical lawsuit abuse and maintain access to athletic trainers providing health care services outside of their home state.

The Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act seeks to clarify that sports medicine professionals may provide treatment to their athletes when they travel out-of-state, and that their medical liability coverage will follow them in these circumstances.

Fans of the bill could be found on both sides of the aisle, with the legislation passing the House by voice vote. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

“H.R. 921 addresses a unique problem that sports medicine professionals face when traveling with their teams out of state,” said Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), who introduced the bill alongside Cedric Richmond (D-LA). “[This bill] clarifies that these professionals can provide quality and timely health care for injured athletes without putting their personal and professional lives at risk.”

Knowing the importance of access to care for both amateur and professional athletes, the bill was widely championed by health care associations including the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), in addition to receiving support from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA, and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committees.

To read more about the House passage of the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act, click here.

AMA Supports Physician Delegation in Liability Amicus Brief

The American Medical Association has weighed in on liability litigation to affirm the way in which physicians obtain informed consent and delegate the task of information sharing.

Before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is a case that challenges a physician’s decision to provide information and obtain informed consent from a patient, via a physician’s assistant, and could open up a new avenue for medical lawsuit abuse.

“Physicians’ delegation of some of their duties to other health care professionals while maintaining liability if those delegated services are not properly performed is commonplace,” AMA’s amicus brief stated.

“Surgeons may be the ‘captain of the ship,’ and liable for a crew member’s errors, but they do not work alone and need not personally perform every task,” the brief continued. “The trend of delegating will only be more common in the future as medical care seeks greater efficiencies.”

AMA, through its brief, seeks to clarify that critical patient information being sought and gathered can be provided by qualified health care providers on behalf of an attending physician.

To read more about AMA’s liability brief in support of existing informed consent laws, click here.

Liability Issues a Top Concern for Spine Surgeons

Becker’s Spine Review invited spine surgeons to discuss the policy changes they would make to improve the current healthcare industry landscape, and their comments elevated the need for medical liability reform.

Echoing the sentiments of many specialty physicians was Dr. Vladimir Sinkov, of the New Hampshire Orthpaedic Center, as he commented that medical liability issues topped his list of concerns as a spine surgeon.

“Medical liability reform — caps on non-economic damages – have been shown to work well in reducing frivolous lawsuits in several states. Nationwide adoption of those caps would be a good first step,” Dr. Sinkov stated.

Further discouraging lawsuits without merit “would be having the plaintiff pay defendant’s legal fees and lost time out of work if the plaintiff loses.”

To read this week’s comments from spine surgeons on health care policy changes, click here.