Saturday, January 27, 2007

Health Courts

I recently became aware of a proposal by Common Good to reform the medical practice system with “health courts.” Common Good Chair Philip Howard explains in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed: “Fear of erratic jury decisions in medical malpractice cases has spawned a culture of fear, causing inefficiencies that infect every level of medicine.” It’s not just the $28 billion in direct malpractice system costs. It’s the billions in defensive medicine and the inefficiency in care when doctors have to document every action to "build a record" in case there's a lawsuit over a bad outcome. We need a reliable medical justice system in which providers don’t need to constantly look over their shoulders and instead do what they think is right. “The only way to overcome this distrust, and all its debilitating errors and waste, is to create a special health court that is trustworthy,” says Howard.

Their proposal is gaining strong momentum.

There’s still many details to be worked out, as well as challenges such as how to evaluate the appropriateness of care delivered in light of the knowledge gap, practice variation problem, and limitations of today’s practice guidelines.

Nevertheless, these folks are on the cutting edge and it’s worthwhile to read what they have to say.

Also, you may be interested in a live webcast on November 5th in Washington, DC entitled “Health Courts, Administrative Compensation & Patient Safety: Research, Policy & Practice,” which is available at http://www.fc-tv.com/webcast/commongood/11-05-07.asx.

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