5 ways the ACA may affect malpractice risk

As the Affordable Care Act shifts the dynamic of how physicians provide care to a higher volume of patients, experts predictchanges to the medical malpractice climate as well. A recent round table discussion at the Crittenden Medical Insurance Conference suggested five changes healthcare professionals can expect:

  1. Standard of care changes. Panelists expressed concern that ACA-driven quality and standard measures will begin to alter the way "standard of care" plays out in the courtroom. For example, panelist Peggy Holm, a shareholder of Bonne Bridges Mueller O'Keefe & Nichols and manager of its Orange County, Calif. office, noted that "some plaintiff attorneys have attempted to use the approved guidelines from specialty boards as 'rules' for the standard of practice and patient safety, placing operational guidelines over proven clinical and outcomes-based research," according to an article from insurancenewsnet.

  2. Vicarious liability. "The industry is very concerned that the ACA will potentially open up medical professionals to more claims based on vicarious liability," noted panelist Molly L. Farrell, vice president of operations, MGIS Underwriting Managers, Inc. "The need to manage more non-physician providers to handle a large influx of new patients--many with untested expectations of the healthcare system--will present new undefined risks--we have to get ready and ensure we have programs to address the new healthcare reality."

  3. Improper handoffs. Furthermore, while team-based care is intended to promote better clinician communication and coordination, bad handoffs in this environment could increase the risk of patient data falling through the cracks, according to insurance professionals.

  4. Burnout. Higher patient volume could potentially overburden practitioners to the point they begin making medical errors, the article noted.

  5. Deep pockets. As a result of the formation of accountable care organizations and other large networks, experts said it's those "deep pockets" that could be more vulnerable to lawsuits, rather than actual responsible parties and entities.

To learn more:
- read the article
- here's the presentation