To reduce malpractice risk, explain risks of skipping care

When employees sign up for coverage this fall during their company's annual enrollment period, about 25 percent will face annual deductibles of at least $1,000, according to a recent employer survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Kaiser Health News reports. As those out-of-pocket costs climb, patients will more frequently forgo care, a trend that could open physicians up to increased malpractice risk, according to a recent blog post from Massachusetts internist Dr. Kevin Pho, which relays a story of a primary care physician who was sued for not offering his patient a colon cancer screening.

According to the defendant physician, the private-pay patient, who ultimately died of metastasized colon cancer, was only visiting his office for blood pressure checks and declined any further medical services. Despite the patient's declaration that he "did not want a ‘full PCP,'" the case was settled before trial for $1.5 million.

Physicians' main defense against this outcome, Pho wrote, is to clearly explain the risks of skipping these tests, and follow through whether the tests are performed or not. "Just as important," he wrote, "if the patient declines age-appropriate screening tests, that needs to be documented in the chart, along with whether the patient understands the medical ramifications of their decision."

To learn more:
- read the post from Kaiser Health News
- read the post from Kevin Pho, MD
- read the article from the Massachusetts Medical Law Report