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Informal peer review records shielded from medical liability plaintiffs

An Idaho Supreme Court ruling affirmed that peer review-related records deserve broad protections from discovery in medical liability claims. That privilege applies not only to documents created within the formal peer review process, but also those generated informally for the purpose of sparking such a review and improving patient care, the high court said in a July 11 opinion in Nightengale v. Timmel. The decision is significant in that it confirms the peer review statute's reach beyond the four walls of a hospital, said Ron Hodge, associate director and legal counsel of the Idaho Medical Assn. The association was not involved in the case. The law was intended to encourage physicians to speak freely about shortfalls in patient care to improve quality and therefore "is extremely broad in what it sweeps into the material in the peer review process," Hodge said. "Without that immunity and confidentiality, physicians would be reticent to participate in the process and share crit ...

CBO report links debt reduction to Medicare pay cuts

Washington -- The nation's debt as a share of the economy could be reduced several percentage points by 2021, but only if Congress allows a number of current-law policies to take effect, including a 29.5% Medicare physician pay cut in 2012. The U.S. will run a fiscal year 2011 deficit of nearly $1.3 trillion -- the third-largest shortfall of the last 65 years. Only the 2009 and 2010 deficits were larger, according to an update of the Congressional Budget Office's budget and economic outlook published on Aug. 24. The federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. During the next decade, CBO expects annual federal deficits to shrink beginning in 2013, thanks in part to the recently enacted Budget Control Act. The law increased the nation's statutory debt ceiling by at least $2.1 trillion but offset the increase with an equal amount in spending cuts, including at least $1.2 trillion that must be identified by Nov. 23 by the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Under these and oth ...

ADHD rises 32% among children and teens

The number of U.S. children ages 5 to 17 diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder climbed about 32% during the past decade, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows. Nearly 1 in 10 children (about 4.7 million) had the disorder in 2007-09, according to the report issued Aug. 18 by the National Center for Health Statistics. The figure went from 7% in 1998-2000 to 9% in 2007-09. The rise probably is due to the public's increased awareness of the disorder and greater familiarity among physicians about how to diagnose it, said pediatrician and lead study author Lara J. Akinbami, MD. "It doesn't really matter why the prevalence is increasing," she said. "The fact is there is a greater demand being placed on education and health care resources" because of the rise in ADHD rates. Patients with the neurobehavioral disorder often need more monitoring by primary care physicians than individuals without ADHD, due to the medication taken to reduce symptom ...