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Quality Improvement and Lawsuits

July 6, 2010

There is a disturbing dynamic in the interplay between quality improvement and our parasitic medicolegal system. 

Medical malpractice plaintiff’s attorneys consistently claim that they seek to get rid of bad doctors or bad hospitals, thereby justifying their frequently unfounded attacks on healthcare practitioners and facilities.  If these claims are sincere, it suggests that they are providing a quality management service to healthcare.  Unfortunately, the reality is quite the opposite.

Is “getting rid” of poor performers the right approach?  Do we seek to “get rid” of anyone convicted of criminal behavior by executing all felons, or do we seek to rehabilitate them?  What kind of rehabilitation or reeducation is offered to “bad” practitioners?  How do we know the “bad doctors” are consistently poor performers?  Does the legal process allow any metrics upon which to base these assessments, or is the determination made simply because a legal case can be built against the presumed incompetent and juries’ proclivity to reward sympathetic plaintiffs?  What about those situations where an individual makes an unfortunate decision despite a stellar career of providing excellent care?

Rather than improving the quality of healthcare, the medicolegal system seeks to destroy it.  The heavy penalties and resultingly high malpractice insurance means there is less money that can be spent on actual healthcare.  Do we do this in any other industry?  When a school system is failing to educate its students, do we sue them to get rid of the bad teachers and the bad schools?  Or do we actually throw more money at them to help them improve?  Did we destroy our national intelligence systems after 9/11, or did we throw more money at the problem and create whole new agencies and operational structures?  In fact, it seems that in every other sector of our economy, any failings are treated with financial subsidies, especially with the current administration in Washington.  It is only healthcare that is consistently expected to do more and more with less and less.  We have been penalized with frivolous and ridiculous lawsuits for decades, fronted by specious claims that quality is being sought.  And now, with the advent of Obamacare, the overwhelming expectation is that the healthcare industry will receive a financial penalty of 20%.

The paradigm shift in medicine will be to change the medicolegal system so that it is no longer a parasitic and destructive force.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 20, 2010 7:04 pm

    Great posting! In addition to frivolous malpractice lawsuits, there is the lethal combination of the corrupt medical peer review process with immunity AND the mandatory NPDB reporting of adversarial outcomes, which is almost an official defaming system. Unfortunately, the hospital peer review process in the US is open for exploitation and corruption. The way it works makes it possible to eliminate any physician, almost legally, and it is entirely up to the conscience, good faith, thoroughness and fairness of the hospital powers, not the process itself, whether a physician will be treated rightfully or not. I try to raise awareness about this problem. Thanks again for an excellent posting.

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