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Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice News

The number of Pennsylvania malpractice lawsuits dropped for the sixth – please think about that for a second: sixth – consecutive year in 2010. The total number of malpractice lawsuits crashed from 2904 in 2002 to 1,491 last year.

Of the malpractice cases that went to a jury last year in Pennsylvania, doctors, hospitals, and health care providers won 82% of the time (33 of 163).

Hysterically, the tone deaf Hospital & Health System Association of Pennsylvania took the moment to point out that additional reforms are needed. Really? Hire a PR department or something, guys. It is such a credibility killer.

I always like to point out that you don’t see lawyers trying to get lawyer specific dispensation to lower malpractice premiums for lawyers. I don’t like paying malpractice premiums but, unlike many doctors, I’m not suggesting special consideration. I think it is crazy doctors want a special exceptions – lawyers would never ask for such a thing.

Oops. Scratch that. I’ll take that arrow of superiority out of my quiver. A New Jersey State Bar is pushing its state legislature to reduce the statute of limitations in malpractice actions against licensed professionals, which includes, of course, lawyers.

This is not a space to praise the virtues of malpractice insurance companies. But let’s give credit to Crico/RMF a malpractice insurance company which insures Harvard-affiliated hospitals. Crico/RMF, according to the Wall Street Journal, put on an emergency medicine leadership summit to identify the critical factors that cause missed or delayed diagnoses of patients in the emergency room.

How did they do this? They looked at settled malpractice lawsuits and tried to breakdown what went wrong. They found that doctor-nurse communication breakdowns often happen at a critical juncture in a patient’s treatment. From this, they put together a list of best practices that hospitals can use to prevent misdiagnosis.

One problem focused on at this ER summit was the concept that doctors have a hard time changing their initial diagnosis when facts are uncovered that should take the doctors in a different direction. Doctors are stubborn to change their diagnosis. But it is not just doctors. It is a cognitive bias we all have. (I’ve written before about how before lawyers use anchoring at trial.) But the key for doctors is identifying the bias so they can confront it before it leads to the wrong diagnosis.

DEA agents tell a Maryland doctor he can no longer prescribe medication. As they are leaving he shouts:

Your mothers wanted you to become physicians and because you didn’t, they are mad at you. So you are mad at physicians and are arresting all physicians in the area.

Later, things get weird and the doctor’s wife puts him in a full Nelson.

Like every hospital, Johns Hopkins makes medication errors that cause people serious injuries. Unlike some other hospitals, Hopkins is vigorously fighting back. This is what makes them Johns Hopkins.

The Journal of Psychiatric Practice provides an article that details how the 88-bed psychiatric unit at Hopkins leaped from a medication error rate of 27.89 per 1,000 patient days in 2003 to 3.43 per 1,000 patient days in 2007. The study claims that there were no medication errors that caused serious injury during the study.

What did they do? They coupled electronic prescription drug ordering with computer reporting of adverse events which, obviously, reduced medication errors.

Who needs medical malpractice lawsuits? Anyone who is or could be a patient. This includes, ah, all of us.

Most doctors are not good doctors. Most doctors are great doctors. They are in the world’s most prestigious profession for a reason: they are smart and competent. But, like any profession, there are a minority of doctors who are awful. Malpractice lawsuits would be at least less important if doctors properly policed themselves.

But they don’t. State medical boards fail to discipline 55 percent of our doctors who are sanctioned by hospitals, according to a just released Public Citizen report. Think about that: their own hospital, where they presumably have contacts and relationships, saw fit to discipline them. But not the state’s medical board.

Premises liability claims make up 8% of nursing home cases. So while these claims are “nursing home cases” in one sense, they are really premises liability cases in nursing homes. This may come with nursing home specific fact patterns, but they are still premises liability claims.

You can get an overview of premises liability claims on our website.

Maryland enacted a self referral law in 1993 to help decrease the costs of health insurance and medical care after concerns that Maryland doctors would order unnecessary testing if they had a financial stake in ordering the testing. I think this was a problem with few doctors, but as we saw with the St. Joe’s stent debacle; it does not take many doctors to create a real problem for patients. Accordingly, Maryland-Self Referral Law prohibits any self-referral or any arrangement which has the practical effect of a self referral.

Where there is radar, there is usually a radar detector. I don’t mean that necessarily in a sinister way, but doctors are looking to make a profit like anyone else. It does not necessarily mean they plan to order unnecessary tests, but if they see a chance to make byproduct business, many doctors want to take that opportunity.

In Potomac Valley Orthopaedic Associates, et al. v. Maryland State Board, doctors appealed a ruling by the Maryland State Board of Physicians forbidding orthopedic doctors from referring patients for an MRI to a facility that is owned or leased by the orthopedic group in which the doctor holds a financial interest.

Deal would raise cap on malpractice suits in Va. (Hampton Roads). Virginia limit on payouts in malpractice lawsuits will increase $50,000 a year, beginning in 2012, until it reaches $3 million in 2031.

Mother dies 4 days after giving birth, family sues (Southeast Texas Record)

Jury Awards Woman $23 Million in Medical Malpractice Case (Ohio Personal Injury Attorney Blog). Not mentioned: the case is against the state which has a $200,000 damage cap. The legislature would have to pass a bill to give the $23 million. What are the odds?