Preparatory Tips for Covid-related Medical Malpractice Crisis

The American healthcare system is under pressure and facing innumerable challenges due to the unending pandemic, leaving patients restless and unsettled, doctors overworked, and nursing staff tired. The JAMA published the latest commentary stating another noteworthy challenge is approaching, which could make the situation significantly worse – medical malpractice catastrophe.

The lead author of the study, William M. Sage, and MD, JD, and professor at the University of Texas’s Austin Dell Medical School, along with colleagues revealed, “Hospitals, nursing homes, and physicians, together with the vaccine manufacturers and therapeutics, are concerned about the potential liability of the pandemic. Most of the healthcare organizations are now asking patients for an acknowledgment and explicitly assuming risks of COVID-19 before receiving proper care; others requested and even obtained a legal immunity from any tort liability through an executive order to state legislation.”

Sage and colleagues further noted that the current medical malpractice catastrophe led to liability insurance becoming both available as well as affordable. Medical professional liability, or MPL, premiums, however, rose steeply from the year 2001 to 2006, then declined for many years, and reappeared yet again.

Hospital leaders trying to protect the institutions against any unlikely event of extremely high damage may once again experience unavailability or may be offered resources at a very high price.

If there is a rise in malpractice insurance to this point that healthcare providers cannot keep up, cardiologists and physicians may find their grounds shaky. Nevertheless, the authors stressed, “there is one better way to do it. University of Michigan Health System, in 2002, could dramatically limit such malpractice-related pressure felt by providers, which made a difference. Instead of waiting for lawsuits and complaints, the health risk management team of the health system gathered a quick-response technique to address unfavorable outcomes of patients. While it seized control over timing addressing persistent concerns about untimely claims among clinicians and risk managers, it also reduced financial insecurity by resolving well-founded claims promptly without any litigation and then moved the actual basis of claim management to patient safety from the point of legal defensibility. This led to quicker claim resolution and reduced lawsuits as well as costs, and the latter drove largely by the decrease in high-dollar settlements obligating most hospitals for maintaining excess coverage.”

The action of the school resembles the CRPs (communication and resolution programs) of this day. It focuses on transparency, patient education, proactive actions, collaboration with providers, and much more. By taking this approach to medical malpractice, the authors of the study further observed that it could be possible to forestall the worst hardening of insurance markets and the consequence.

The team cited, “Applying the principles of CRP during this pandemic could improve the quality of healthcare as well as avert claims in fortunes, which, in turn, could potentially decrease the cost of medical malpractice insurance. Structured communication via telehealth has the potential to convey the uncertainties of clinicians in determining the difference between what care could be and what could not be delayed during this pandemic and potential consequences. When the covid-19 related outcomes are less than what it should be transparency could be the factor tempering unrealistic expectations contributing to claims of malpractice and substitute shared purpose and compassion.”

If another crisis like this follows with Covid-19, providers taking serious steps to change and revamp patient care and policies behind-the-scene should benefit a lot. However, providers not doing anything, on the contrary, would be prepared for 2021 making 2020 a little simpler when compared.

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