Med: AMSA Regional Conference

October 22, 2007

First–congrats to Clegal on the fantasy football W. He didn’t just beat me–he pounded me into the ground. But as he said, I’m near the top of the league, so I’m not gonna fret too much. I digress…

This past weekend, AMSA of UIC (American Medical Student Association) hosted the midwest regional conference. As an exec board member of AMSA (in an invented position but whatever…), I had the opportunity to play a role in helping pull it off and it was a great success. I must admit that before this, I was very skeptical of the usefulness of such a conference; however, it proved to be great for learning some new things and making contacts.

There were many aspects of the conference worth highlighting, but given the nature of this blog I would like to focus on one in particular. I was the liason (speaker greeter/escort) for a talk entitled The Patient Safety Initiative. While I initially thought this might be a bit dry, it quickly became my favorite talk of the weekend.

The speaker was Dr. Tim MacDonald, one of the primary risk managers at the University of Illinois Hospital. Still a practicing physician a few days per week, he had actually gone back to school to earn his law degree–making him a great resource as part of the risk management program. This program primarily deals with the response to the occurence of a medical error–i.e., those things that lead to malpractice suits.

A new idea–originating at the University of Michigan–is one of “Rapid Disclosure and Compensation.” In years past, doctors would generally avoid admitting mistakes to patients unless absolutely necessary (something too obvious to be ignored. And i’m also generalizing because surely there were doctors who wouldn’t do this). Eventually, the mistakes would be uncovered, leading to a massive breakdown of patient/doctor trust and a lawsuit.

The current trend in medicine is instead setup to maintain that level of trust. It has been demonstrated the patients are–for the most part–willing to accept mistakes at the hands of the doctors; however, they demand honesty and admission of error (and SOME financial compensation). The way the program works is this:

When an error is discovered, it is immediately remedied and the patient is informed about the details (What happened, what they’re doing to fix it, what future treatments will be necessary, etc.). All of the hospital bills (current and future) are waived, and a financial settlement is immediately reached (significantly less than those involving lawsuits and also avoiding the extreme cost of litigation itself). All in all, a great deal of money is being saved–and patient/doctor trust is being maintained. UIH hasn’t had a malpractice lawsuit since the program began. Good deal all around–except for the lawyers of course.

One point Dr. MacDonald made was to say that lawyers do not like this system. Lawyers for the plaintiff are paid on commission, and therefore they are losing serious money. Defense lawyers are paid based on how long a trial drags out. By cutting out unnecessary litigation–especially the plethora of unwinnable cases–defense lawyers are also losing money. These same lawyers also like to claim that this new type of system doesn’t work, but all of the data seems to state otherwise.

So take THAT Clegal and you damn ambulance chasers (No, Clegal is not one of those but I’m just making a point). Looks like the future of malpractice in medicine may be changing for the better. Find another profession to fuck over.

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