Trend: Arbitration becoming more common

Increasingly often, physicians and hospitals are asking patients to sign contracts under which they agree to go through binding arbitration, rather than the courts, if they have a dispute to settle. In doing so, they're joining a host of industries who already impose such requirements, including credit card companies, cell phone vendors and car dealers. Part of the pressure to do this is coming from medical malpractice insurers, who argue that such agreements will cut premiums and make defensive medicine less common.

Doctors interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer said that they're instituting such agreements for a variety of reasons, including a desire to craft their own version of malpractice reform and a desire to establish a more trusting relationship with patients. And how are patients responding to this approach? One physician, Dr. Steven Barrer, said that out of thousands of  new patients, only 10 have refused to sign.

Critics of this trend, meanwhile, say that it benefits only the providers, given that they tend to choose arbitrators they've used before in other disputes--and that such arbitrators have a motive to please repeat customers rather than the complaining patient.

To learn more about this trend:
-read this Philadelphia Inquirer piece

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