Articles Posted in Healthcare

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A recent report published in the Journal of HealthCare Finance touched on a subject of obvious importance to our legal team: the intersection of economics and medical errors. In particular, the comprehensive research sought to examine the actual financial toll that healthcare quality problems take on national budgets. The full report can be found here.

Our med mal attorneys frequently push back against all of the false claims made about the connection between the civil justice system and healthcare costs. The obvious reality is that a focus on the healthcare system itself is required to truly tackle the rising healthcare financial burden. In particular, the wasted funds required as a result of medical errors is a good starting point to understand the changing priorities that are needed to truly address the human and monetary losses accrued as a result of inadequate medical quality.

The Economics of Medical Errors Study

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Medical malpractice lawsuits need to be curtailed, argue supporters of tort reform, because fair access to the civil justice system is responsible for rising healthcare rates. Of course the actual payments for med mal settlements and judgements are a mere fraction of healthcare costs. That is why those pushing these laws usually explain that the medical malpractice effect on healthcare costs is not caused by outright judgements and settlements, but indirectly, via defensive medicine.

The argument is that, out of fear of being sued, doctors provide much more care than is actually needed to preemptively “defend” themselves. Without fear of legal liability,tort reformers suggest that this extra care would not be provided and costs would go down. Unfortunately, many have taken to this argument as a clear reason to support taking away rights of medical patients in order to help the system as a whole.

But, as with virtually all tort reform arguments, they do not hold up to actual evidence.

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Issues about proper medical care are quite sensitive–that is particularly true when it comes to children. Young children in need of medical care are at the mercy of their parents, guardians, and adult medical professionals. They are not able to weigh their options and make proper decisions; that role is abdicated to others. For this reason there is significant conflict over medical treatment for youngsters–particularly when that treatment is unorthodox.

Acupuncture

One of the most hot-button debates involve therapies like acupuncture for children. The debate about the benefit (or lack thereof) of acupuncture for adults continues to rage, but there is another level of complexity when it comes to acupuncture for children. Believe it or not, it does happen.

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The New York Times recently published a story that shares disappointing news about the lack of improvement in the effort to improve hospital safety.

A comprehensive 5 year study analyzing the harm caused by medical care in several hospitals found that little to no headway has been in made in recent years to lower the numbers of patients harmed by preventable errors. The research effort was one of the most vigorous medical studies of the past decade. Experts claim that the scope of the data collection mirrored that from a 1999 report which uncovered that nearly 100,000 patients die every year from medical mistakes, with another million suffering injury.

The most common hospital mistakes involve procedural complications, drug problems, and hospital-acquired infections. Many other problematic events were found, from unnecessary bleeding during procedures to vaginal cuts caused by improper use of childbirth devices. Overall, about 18% of all patients suffered at least some harm from problematic medical care-2.4% of those actually died from the errors.

Experts are not surprised by the results, because hospitals continue to avoid taking known steps to improve safety. As one involved doctor explained, “Until there is a more coordinated effort to implement those strategies proven beneficial, I think that progress in patient safety will be very slow.”
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A new article by Modern Healthcare reveals the troubling truth about Medicare auditors’ failure to scrutinize providers who have been found to have committed a large number of medical errors. Typically the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) used historical error-rate data to identify the medical providers who committed the most medical mistakes and billing errors, and then worked to ensure corrective actions was taken.

However, those reviews never occurred for many error-prone facilities. As a result, an astounding $44 billion was paid over 4 years for incorrect procedure like fee-for-service payments stemming from incorrect coding, unnecessary services, and documentation errors.

Over the past 4 years, CMS data revealed that 21% of the inpatient acute-care providers accounted for nearly 59% of the errors-meaning that a smaller group of providers were committed repeated mistakes and compounding the overall problem.

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As a Christmas present to America, the Senate made history by voting 60-39 to pass comprehensive healthcare reform legislation. The resulting bill will provide relief to millions of struggling Americans. The bill does not contain any provisions that would limit an injured patient’s rights concerning medical negligence claims. This is a stunning victory for all those who opposed medical malpractice tort reform. The bills assurance of patient’s rights is just another wonderful aspect of the healthcare legislation. We thank all of you to all those who contacted their respective Senators. Additionally the AAJ’s 98,000 reasons campaign was very successful. To read more about the healthcare legislation, please check out the link.

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According to an article, medical malpractice lawsuits are not the major problem needed to be reformed in the health care debate. The article claims that “medical malpractice makes up a tiny percentage of overall healthcare costs,” contrary to popular opinion. Also, medical negligence lawsuits only make up six percent of the civil lawsuits in court. The article puts to rest the rumor that doctors premiums are raised by negligence claims. It states that negligence claims have dropped, while the premiums have continued to rise.

Read more about the health care debate myths here.

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According to an article, correcting medical mistakes must be the top priority in healthcare reform. Medical errors result in thousands of unnecessary deaths each year and accumulate huge healthcare costs, the article states. The article proposes forming a national medical safety board to investigate many of the numerous medical errors. They would then use this investigation to propose advice to doctors and other medical professionals in reforming healthcare. If you or someone you know has been a victim of medical error, you may want to consider contacting a medical malpractice attorney.

Read more about the proposed medical health board here.

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According to federal officials, The University of Chicago Medical Center has violated the federal law of Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act by not following emergency room procedure. The Chicago hospital failed to provide a medical screening to a 78 year old man who died last month in their emergency room. The alleged violation could lead to loss of federal funding from the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly. The Joint Commission, which is given the power to accredit hospitals, is also going to investigate the alleged violation. The Illinois hospital said it has the correct policies and procedures in place and will take disciplinary action against its staff employees who may not have followed protocol.

Read more about the alleged hospital violation here.

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Key players from Congress and the Obama Administration are once again bringing medical malpractice reform to the table. An AP article discusses that these changes could benefit doctors and hospitals but they would also harm a plaintiff’s ability to seek just compensation when they are involved in a medical malpractice case. Trial lawyers argue that medical malpractice lawsuits are not to blame for rising health care costs and only account for a very small portion of costs.

To read the full article about medical malpractice reform, visit the link.