Your voice: Medical malpractice is a major policy issue; doctors should pay attention

Medical Economics Journal0610, 2019 Edition
Volume 96
Issue 11 readers respond to recent articles.

In “Healthcare’s future: Four policy debates doctors must follow”. (March 25, 2019 issue) you mentioned the Affordable Care Act, expanding healthcare insurance, prescription drug prices, and changes to accountable care organizations (ACOs) as four areas of healthcare policy that physicians must keep their eyes on.

But, to these four should be added a fifth because it leads to inefficiency and rising costs: the medical liability system. It is deplorable that even though the personal injury lawyers are permitted to hit doctors with unmerited suits, they receive little or no criticism from policymakers.

Malpractice suits are doctors’ worst nightmares. To ward them off, they order extra tests and consultations. It is impossible to estimate how much these extra tests and consultations raise the cost of care, but doubtless it is considerable.

Even if doctors have acted competently and even if they have trusting relationships with their patients, bad things happen and some patients will sue.

An American Medical Association report in 2017 mentioned that 68 percent of closed claims in 2015 were dismissed or withdrawn, and that of the 7 percent of claims that went to trial, 88 percent were decided in favor of the doctor.

Clearly, there are way too many brought against physicians.

Health courts that operate like workers compensation are a good alternative. Overseen by judges with special training medical liability, they would resolve cases quickly and get compensation to patients in months, not years.

And knowing that there would be fewer unmerited suits, physicians would have peace of mind and be less inclined to order unneeded tests and consultations.

Edward Volpintesta, MD
Bethel, Conn.

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