A recent article in Insurance Journal suggests that the Affordable Care Act, by changing how medicine is practiced, is also going to change how medical malpractice is viewed and, more importantly, litigated.

The old paradigm of people having a single family doctor may be giving way to a concept called an accountable care organization, or ACO, that consists of a number of professionals who will see to a patient’s healthcare needs. This is the result of hospitals buying up private practices and blending them into their business models.

The Hospitalist

A relatively new sort of doctor, called a hospitalist, is coming into being. A hospitalist’s role is to monitor a person’s hospital stay and coordinate the care he or she receives, a role once undertaken by a family physician. The physician will still do diagnosis outside a hospital setting, and will do followups once the hospital stay is completed. Some roles, such as surgeons and nurses, will remain familiar, though the latter will take up more responsibilities.

Increased Litigation

This new way of dispensing healthcare, which detaches the traditional relationship between patient and physician, will likely lead to more medical malpractice litigation. Responsibility for medical malpractice will also more likely be assumed more collectively — by hospitals and ACOs, rather than by individual physicians. Errors will likely be as much a result of miscommunication as they are from individual mistakes. This will increase the exposure of health care organizations like hospitals to litigation.

How the Affordable Care Act May Affect Medical Malpractice
The ACA could increase hospitals’ exposure to medical malpractice litigation.

Health Care Reform

Finally, the debate continues over health care reform and how its various flaws can be fixed. This makes predictions uncertain for how medical practice is handled. It will depend on how the health care reform shapes up as political winds continue to shift.

For more information about medical malpractice, contact Wilson Kehoe Winingham.

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