Home From The Editor Toward a more rational tort system

Toward a more rational tort system

November 2009

Published in the November 2009 issue of Today’s Hospitalist.

IN THE NOT-SO-DISTANT PAST, tort reform was a major plank in many health care reform proposals. But while the Obama administration has recognized the need for tort reform, the president recently stated that such reform is no “silver bullet” for re-shaping U.S. health care.

I suspect many physicians would disagree. Physicians, who regularly find themselves the victims of a tort system run amok, have never wavered on the need for medical liability reform.

While hospitalists have always known the unique risks their specialty presents, they seem to be paying more attention to the issue. The reason? They suspect that they are increasingly in the crosshairs of attorneys.

Insurers say that hospitalist liability rates have remained stable or even trended down slightly in the past several years, just like rates for other specialists as the number of malpractice cases being filed goes down. But hospitalists’ scope of practice is constantly expanding, and lawyers are well aware of how essential information can go missing post-discharge.

Two articles in this issue explore the impact that the current malpractice system has on hospitalists. One story was written by a hospitalist who reviews cases for both plaintiff and defense attorneys.

It offers hands down the most practical advice I’ve seen to help hospitalists steer clear of malpractice trouble. That advice will potentially improve not only your odds of not getting sued, but the patient care you provide.

The reality, however, is that even the best possible care and communication won’t always prevent hospitalists from being sued. The commentary takes a look at the frivolous lawsuits that some hospitalists encounter.

The article notes that some states have changed their tort system to compensate patients who have truly suffered harm without needlessly entangling physicians. It’s a small step toward a more rational malpractice system, one that the nation as a whole might do well to emulate.

edoyleEdward Doyle
Editor and Publisher
edoyle@todayshospitalist.com