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Delayed malpractice lawsuits are ramping up again

Plus, where should residents present?

January 2023
Delayed malpractice lawsuits are ramping up again

THE PANDEMIC caused a lot of delays in health care, with patients putting off elective surgeries and visits to the ED. But the pandemic also put many malpractice lawsuits on hold as courts shut down for two years and jury trials were suspended.

Now, however, those lawsuits are landing in courts. According to STAT coverage in December 2022, hospitals and health systems are trying to manage higher malpractice expenses at the same time as costs for labor and supplies are rising. While the effects so far are being felt primarily by health systems that self-insure for malpractice, consultants believe a growing number of malpractice cases will affect all health systems in 2023, including those that buy liability insurance.

Another possible liability trend: Hospitals that have been struggling for a year or more with staff shortages are at higher risk for patient safety issues and errors, which could lead to more suits.

Should patients be presented away from the bedside?

bedside-roundsA NEW point/counterpoint in the Journal of Hospital Medicine takes up the debate about where residents should present in teaching hospitals.

The authors advocating for presenting outside patient rooms point out that rounding at the bedside is essential for learning communication techniques and physical exam skills. But listening to attendings “think out loud” about a patient’s care or differential diagnosis is extremely valuable for residents, they argue, and such discussions happen more frequently outside patients’ rooms. They also think attendings should offer constructive criticism to residents about presentations away from an audience of patients and families.

But not so, write the physicians taking the counterpoint. Choosing a safe space such as a hallway to offer criticism or discuss sensitive topics like addiction or social issues just perpetuates the stereotype of the infallible physician, they argue, and doesn’t allow patients to develop trust in their medical team. “The solution,” write the doctors advocating for presenting at the bedside, “is to ensure bedside rounds are a ‘safe place’ where ideas can be shared freely, and curiosity from trainees and patients is welcome.”

Published in the January/February 2023 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

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