Medical malpractice lawsuits serve a preventative function on future errors in two ways. First, the risk of facing a lawsuit (or the expense of paying compensation after an error) works to spur change that prioritizes patient safety. Individual doctors and hospital administrators often enact new rules, training, and staffing in order to ensure quality standards are met one hundred percent of the time. The expense of these changes are justified if costs must be paid for errors. Alternatively, these lawsuits may serve to warn patients about which professionals or facilities offer a higher risk of harm. The idea is that, in the marketplace of options, medical patients will chose the safer facilities. Those facilities will ultimately be more successful. The lower quality facilities will either change or be driven out of business.
The second option--driven by consumer decisions--only works, however, when those consumer have easy access to understandable and reliable information about doctor quality. It is in that vein that more and more groups are trying to share information about doctors and hospitals. We have frequently written posts on some of those new rankings, including hospital data compiled by Consumer Reports and a group known as Leapfrog.
Checking on Your Doctor
According to a new story from Seattle PI there is yet another entrant into this category--a new service that allows consumers to learn about possible problems with individual doctors. Known as “Docnosis,” the new service is being touted by its makers as a way to check up on medical professionals before undergoing procedures which can lead to serious harm when not done correctly. Obviously this sort of search isn’t much help in emergency situations--you must simply get to the closest medical facility as quickly as possible. However, it may prove quite useful for planned events, like a surgery or childbirth.
The creators of the site point out that medical licensing rules vary from state to state. In addition, there are many cases of doctors moving to different states to practice after running into trouble for malpractice-events in a different location. All of this means that some professionals have dozens of malpractice cases against them while still practicing. This information may be important for consumers to consider when deciding what professional to handle their medical care. After all, nothing is more important than your health. If you do a bit of research before visiting an auto mechanic, beauty salon, or restaurant, the same diligence (and then some) should be applied to health care providers.
The new service can be found at this link. The press release announcing the new database discusses the mission by noting that it was “founded to empower patients to make fully-informed decisions before they undergo a procedure with an obstetrician, cardiologist, plastic surgeon, or any health-care provider.”
Essentially, those using the service can search for a potential doctor and learn about their past malpractice history. At the same time, “recommendations” will be provided by the program which identifies other doctors in the same practice area and geographic area who have not had malpractice claims against them. The service claims to not to solicit any advertisements from hospitals or healthcare providers. That is important, because consumers would obviously not want this system to be skewed by the company’s profit-motive. The company’s CFO noted, “We really wanted to keep industry money out of this equation so we could offer facts instead of anonymous opinions.”
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