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By Gary McCammon

Why a new publication about risk management for health care professionals?

Increasing malpractice verdicts and settlements have increased premiums to the breaking point while driving many insurers out of the market altogether. Immediate relief can only come in the form of legislated caps on damages. The opposition to tort reform, however, is unrelenting. Stories of alleged medical errors are front-page news. Your patients may be sympathetic to your plight, but when they see headlined horror stories of transplant errors, rampant hospital infections and diluted medications, they wonder, "Is a $250,000 cap on damages fair if I'm on the receiving end of such heinous treatment?" Never mind the argument that we all ultimately pay for the enormous damage awards that get passed on in higher health care, drug and ancillary costs.

One recent estimate posits an average out-of-pocket cost of $720 per year to every American due to tort claim payments — equivalent to a 5% tax on his or her average wage. And, current trends project a 7% to 11 % annual increase. Something's got to give. Near-term tort reform is the only way to slow down this runaway train, and a total dismantling of the tort liability system the only way to finally derail it.

The requisite quid pro quo is likely to be rigorous scrutiny of all adverse outcomes to identify or postulate the causative errors, evaluate the competency of the practitioners and seek systematic solutions to eliminate the sources of error, whether human or procedural. The person (you!) and/or the process will be the scapegoat waiting to happen. You will be under a microscope, so to speak. And it may not be a "peer" at the eyepiece, but rather an expert panel of multi-disciplinary, non-physician professionals whose jobs are to drive this concept. Let's hope it's more like the National Transportation Safety Board investigating an aviation incident and less the opportunity for a witch hunt. 

The Professional Risk Advisor will serve as a summary of medical horror stories de jour to keep you current with what your patients are reading and hearing. While we're at it we'll separate the facts from the fiction. Not all bad outcomes are "errors." Not all practitioners who have bad outcomes are bad doctors (or nurses, or PAs, etc.).

We will keep you posted on all the latest news about procedures, devices, systems and research that can help you reduce or eliminate the incidence of bad outcomes and "errors." Finally, we relate these current events to the evolution of a post-tort patient compensation model, still at a pre-embryonic stage. This will be a quick and ready resource for knowing what's happening at the nexus of medicine and law, an area of knowledge that by now you must realize will be an integral element of your professional practice for some time to come.

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