Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reducing the Costs of Defensive Medicine

Defensive medicine costs are a big deal. They add so much in terms of actual dollar amounts to everyone's bills, whether in the clinic or in a hospital setting. Many studies estimate that up to 20-40% or more of our medical bills are inflated by defensive medicine costs. Given the huge costs we face, reduction of these would help reduce medical costs a lot.

Even more, excessive and unnecessary tests are dangerous to patients. For example, an Abdominal CT scan adds up to 30-50 times the radiation exposure of an ordinary x-ray. Imagine the effects this could have on your body in terms of injury. And this is done just because a doctor is in fear of being sued.

Here is one way I propose to reduce defensive medicine costs: I am one of the two physician members on the Lt Gov. Task Force for Medical Liability reform. We are working on a specific plan to help patients and physicians resolve medical injury disputes more quickly and less expensively through face-to face early communication between patients and hospitals and doctors when a suspected medical induced injury occurs. We believe that this new system, already successfully used in Washington and Michigan, will enable resolution with fairer, quicker compensation and preservation of the doctor-patient relationship. This early resolution process is virtually cost-free compared to the traditional tort system that involves formal lawsuits and all of the associated attorney fees. We are going to test this at the Univ. of Utah and hopefully then at IHC and HCA, etc.  This system benefits and makes sense for all parties involved.

Here's another idea: I would like to explore further a "de facto" protocol for medical quality of care as well. This is a system wherein we develop specific evidence-based guidelines for quality of care. In other words, we would develop specific testing protocols for a condition like chest pain. Affected parties of patients, trial attorneys and physicians could review and agree to these ahead of time. These protocols would ensure the high quality care based on the best medical practices. It would maintain quality for patients and reduce unnecessary other unneeded defensive testing.

Reforming healthcare is an important priority for me. It’s a task that will require bipartisan cooperation, with lawmakers from both parties coming together to figure out what is best for Utah. I am confident that I can and will be an effective part of this process and a strong representative of SD 8 residents.

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