ER docs say malpractice fear leads to tests
Article Thumbnail ImageMay 27, 2011 -- Forty-four percent of almost 1,800 emergency room (ER) physicians responding to a poll reported that the biggest challenge to cutting costs in the emergency department is the fear of lawsuits, while 53% said the main reason they conduct the number of tests they do is for fear of being sued, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).
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The results highlight the necessity of medical liability reform, the ACEP said in a statement -- especially in tandem with U.S. government efforts to implement healthcare quality measures.

"The federal government is making great efforts to implement quality measures, but without federal medical liability reform, physicians following the guidelines developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMS] may open themselves to litigation," said Dr. Sandra Schneider, ACEP president. "For example, under new CMS guidelines, the use of head CTs is being discouraged. Fewer head CTs will mean that physicians miss maybe 1% of serious head bleeds. So a small percentage of people with head bleeds will be missed, and there are no liability protections for those physicians who may be sued as a result."

ACEP supports two pieces of legislation proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives, HR 5 and HR 157, which are both aimed at liability reform. HR 157 would extend the same legal protection that physicians in the public health service have to physicians who care for patients in emergency departments. Emergency physicians are required by federal law to treat all patients, and often treat time-sensitive patients without any knowledge of their medical history. HR 5 recently cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee and will come up for a floor vote soon, according to ACEP.