The current medical liability system in the United States is in shambles and needs a complete, multifaceted overhaul, according to a recent position paper published by the American College of Physicians (ACP). In the paper, ACP outlined the problems with the existing system, and offers nine separate solutions that would improve the medical liability system if implemented correctly, healthcare lawyers in Florida, Georgia, New York and New Jersey say.
According to the paper titled “Medical Liability Reform: Innovative Solutions for a New Health Care System,” under the current system, there is still widespread fear of the devastation caused to physicians by a medical malpractice lawsuit. Physicians operate under the worry that a patient will bring a malpractice lawsuit against them after an unsatisfactory, but not necessarily incorrect or negligent, procedure or diagnosis. This stress includes knowing that one human error could easily ruin an entire practice and destroy a professional reputation.
Although premiums for medical liability have been cut back in the last few years, the fear of litigation is still prevalent in the medical community, which can severely limit the doctor-patient relationship. Medical professionals are not the only parties affected negatively by the current system. Patients who are victims of medical negligence and malpractice also suffer, even though the system should be focused on patient safety, protection and providing quality medical care.
In a media briefing, Molly Cooke, MD, president of ACP, stated that the existing system “just doesn’t work, it’s unfair to patients … and it spends an enormous amount of money to compensate a small minority of injured patients.” By publishing the paper, ACP aims to propose new, logical ideas — backed up by evidence — to help reform progress, and revolutionize a medical system that could have support from both political parties.
ACP proposes the following nine approaches that should be used to create a reformed medical liability system, one that focuses on several levels of patient care, physician protection, and ensuring medical stability:
- Continue to focus on patient safety and preventing medical errors.
- Propose and pass a comprehensive tort reform package that includes caps on noneconomic damages.
- Set minimum standards and qualifications for all expert witnesses in trial cases.
- Test and expand — when needed — communication and disclosure programs.
- Pilot test several alternative dispute resolution models.
- Develop effective safe harbor protections to improve quality of care, increase efficiency of practice, and cut costs.
- Expand tests for health courts and administrative compensations systems.
- Research team-based care and its effects on medical liability, and test enterprise liability and other products that protect and encourage team-based care.
- Examine oversight of medical liability insurers.
With these steps, ACP hopes to eliminate the current system’s inadequacies — no pilot testing, no caps on noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits, and the overwhelming fear of liability, for starters.
Dr. Cooke noted efforts that have already been made to initiate reform at the state level. “Perhaps more promising,” she said, “is the testing of innovative liability protection models, such as health courts, enterprises liability, safe harbor protections, and disclosure laws, which seek to break through the political impasse and create a system that encourages the prevention of errors, improved patient safety, and timely resolution of legitimate claims.”
At Lubell Rosen, a Florida, Georgia, New York and New Jersey healthcare firm, our attorneys counsel medical professionals on changes to state and federal medical laws and systems. Contact a Lubell Rosen attorney for a consultation today.