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Death certificates present final medical complication

Death certificates are vital documents that serve as the primary source of information for families, insurance companies and authorities about a patient’s cause of death. The information also helps policymakers set public health goals and research funding priorities. But signing a death certificate is not always a straightforward process. Physicians often face uncertainties about an individual’s cause of death or how to answer the portions of certificates they are responsible for. Although the basic format has changed little in the last few decades, doctors face difficulties as some states attempt to convert from paper to electronic certificates. Doctors need to recognize the importance of the documents and be as specific as possible, said Gregory McDonald, DO, chief deputy coroner of Montgomery County in Pennsylvania. Information on death certificates is reported to the CDC and used in compiling national mortality data. “Their duty doesn’t end when the patient die ...

Unresolved liability suits cast long shadow over physicians

The average physician spends nearly 11% of his or her career with an unresolved medical liability claim, says a study in the January Health Affairs. Speciality plays a significant role in how long a claim remains open, according to the study, which examined claims data for about 40,000 physicians covered by an unidentified national insurer. Neurosurgeons spent 27% of their careers with an open claim — the longest of the specialties studied. Psychiatrists had the shortest span — 3% of their careers with an unresolved claim. Internists had an open claim for 10% of their career, while family/general physicians had one for 8%. A doctor’s average career is 40 years. The findings are unfortunate, considering that the majority of medical liability claims end in favor of physicians, said Richard E. Anderson, MD, chair and CEO of The Doctors Company, a physician-owned liability insurer in Napa, Calif. “It is a national disgrace that physicians must bear the enormous cost ...

RAND points fingers after health IT predictions fizzle

Researchers at the RAND Corp. say their 2005 prediction that health information technology could save the U.S. more than $81 billion annually has not come to pass. But the organization isn’t placing the blame on itself for its inaccurate prognostication. Instead, in a report in the January Health Affairs, researchers from the policy think tank placed the blame on “shortcomings in the design and implementation of health IT systems”. They blamed vendors for creating systems that are difficult to use and can’t connect with other electronic health records, echoing physician complaints about them. However, the researchers also said doctors and hospitals have not invested the “considerable” time and effort necessary to learn how to use the systems, and adapt their workflow to ensure that technology is smoothing processes, not hindering them. While various studies show some “marginal” success by health IT in increasing quality and efficiency of patient care, and while ...