The more I learn about health care the more I think that health care would really benefit from tort reform. In many ways we’ve needed this for a while. I’ve never seen this study, but I’d love to see someone study how many health care costs are associated with unneeded tests and procedures that were ordered by doctors in order to help them avoid liability.
This happens all the time in health care and you can’t blame the doctors for doing it. Them ordering a likely unneeded extra test in order to avoid possible liability is a common practice. It only takes one time that they don’t order the test for the doctor to start over ordering tests and procedures. It’s unfortunately the lawsuit happy society that we live in and that’s why tort reform could help
Turns out that technology actually exacerbates this problem in many ways. A great example of this is in interoperability of health records. We all love the idea that everyone’s health information is pushed to the doctor so it’s available whenever the doctor needs it. I think we can all agree that the doctor having all of the information on a patient will lead to improved care for many patients. However, pushing all this new health information to the doctor raises a lot of questions.
From the doctor’s perspective they’re asking the question “Will I be held liable for health information that’s pushed to me?” “What if that health information shows suicidal tendencies for my patient and I don’t do anything about it because the information was pushed to me and I never actually saw it?” We could highlight a few hundred other scenarios where the doctor could be held liable if they don’t act on some information that’s forwarded to them. Any rational person could see how the doctor shouldn’t be responsible, but most lawsuits aren’t very rational.
Another example would be a doctor who has access to an HIE but doesn’t use it. Should the doctor be held liable for not using that information? What if the HIE had the allergies of a patient and could have prevented the doctor prescribing a drug to the patient because they were allergic? Should the doctor be held liable for information that was available in the HIE, but for whatever reason she chose not to access that information and ended up doing something bad?
I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV, but there are so many examples of potential liability that it’s quite scary. Is it any wonder why doctors are so frustrated with medicine? I think the right tort reforms could help. If we don’t, I think the cost of health care will continue to rise.