Malpractice Crisis Pushes More Patients out of Office, into ER

Article excerpt

Physicians in some states are responding to the malpractice crisis by sending their patients to emergency rooms and hospitals rather than treating them in the office, according to a study from the Center for Studying Health System Change.

"This latest report on the medical liability crisis shows once again the tragic effects of this crisis on patient care," Dr. Donald Palmisano, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement. "Patients are the ones truly paying the price for this crisis as doctors are forced to change their practice procedures in order to afford medical liability insurance."

Physicians have been known to avoid malpractice claims by practicing defensive medicine instead of doing what's in the best interest of patients, the report said. But liability concerns can prompt other changes in physician behavior, HSC stated in its report.

Results varied among 12 markets studied (Boston; Cleveland; Greenville, S.C.; Indianapolis; Lansing, Mich.; Little Rock, Ark.; Miami; Northern New Jersey; Orange County, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Seattle; and Syracuse, N.Y.).

While physicians and hospitals in 11 of the 12 markets raised concerns about the cost and availability of malpractice insurance, only some of the markets reported that skyrocketing premiums were altering physicians' treatment decisions.

For example, physicians in Orange County, Calif. …