Doctors Must Properly Supervise Physician Assistants, Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer Warns

Doctors Must Properly Supervise Physician Assistants, Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer Warns

Although a new study finds most doctors believe their PAs pose little risk for negligence lawsuits, they can't become lax in their supervision, Chicago personal injury attorney Patrick A. Salvi says.

Chicago, IL (PRWEB) July 08, 2011

The majority of emergency room doctors feel confident that physician assistants do not increase the likelihood of medical malpractice claims, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

The 2009 study found that 81.8 percent of doctors disagreed that PAs were at a greater risk for negligence lawsuits than other health care workers. Responding doctors also expressed feeling more secure with the physician assistants that they had worked with over the longest periods of time.

"That makes sense," says Chicago medical malpractice attorney Patrick A. Salvi. "Time builds trust. It's natural that doctors will expect fewer medical errors from physician assistants who have an established track record of responsibility."

But doctors must be careful not to get too comfortable with their PAs, warns Salvi, the managing equity partner of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard, a leading Illinois medical malpractice law firm.

"It could be a slippery slope," the Chicago lawyer explains. "On the one hand, hospitals are busy places, and doctors need PAs who can help lessen the heavy patient workload. But doctors are also required to supervise those PAs, and if they don't do it well, they can be held liable for medical negligence when hospital errors occur."

From an occupational standpoint, physician assistants are a relatively new addition to the medical community, with the first educational program established in 1967 at Duke University. Since that time, the PA profession has flourished.

According to the AAPA study, from 2004 to 2009, the number of doctors practicing with physician assistants in the U.S. increased by 26 percent, and the number of doctors directly supervising PAs in the emergency department rose by 19 percent.

Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the number of physician assistants in the U.S. should increase from the 74,800 reported in 2008 to 103,900 by 2018.

That dramatic increase means that doctors must be even more vigilant in their oversight of PAs, says Salvi.

"It's certainly true that physician assistants can be held individually responsible for medical negligence in lawsuits, but doctors can be held vicariously liable if they don't exercise proper authority over their PAs," explains the malpractice lawyer, who handles cases throughout Illinois, including Chicago, Cook County and Lake County, among other areas.

Salvi offers several suggestions to help patients avoid being the victims of medical malpractice.

  •     When possible, get referrals to physicians rather than choosing one yourself.
  •     If you have a chronic condition, learn as much as possible about your illness.
  •     Review all medications and drug allergies with your health care provider.
  •     Don't be afraid to ask questions or interrupt the doctor or PA if you hear them making a medical error related to your case.
  •     Remember that it's fine to ask for a second opinion.

"Obviously, emergency situations present their own challenges because you are typically assigned the doctor and PA that are available and appropriate given your medical condition," says Salvi. "But gaining as much control as possible over your treatment is a key part in helping to reduce the incidences of medical malpractice each year."

About Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C.
Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. is a leading Illinois medical malpractice law firm with offices in Chicago and Waukegan. The firm represents clients in matters involving emergency room errors, failure to diagnose, hospital negligence, physician error, birth injuries, surgical malpractice, anesthesia errors, organ puncture/perforation, post-operative and pre-operation malpractice and surgical complications. The firm's success in medical negligence, personal injury and wrongful death cases features recoveries of more than $585 million on behalf of its clients, including more than 160 multi-million dollar verdicts or settlements. To learn more about Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., call (847) 249-1227 or use the firm's online form.