National legislation introduced last week is aimed at reducing the risk of medical malpractice lawsuits, improving patient care, preventing insurance fraud and saving money — all through use of evidence-based medical practices.
The bill, HR 4106, is a bipartisan offering from a Democratic doctor from California and a Republican lawyer from Kentucky.
California Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove), a physician, co-sponsored the Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act with Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ken), a lawyer. The bill was introduced in the House last week.
“As a doctor, I know that physicians want to do what’s best for their patients, and promoting evidence-based medicine will help us do that,” Bera said in a written statement. “[The bill] is a practical way to bring down the skyrocketing cost of health care, and to make the system work better for patients.”
The law would provide added protection from lawsuits — called “a safe harbor,” for physicians who adhere to specific evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. It applies to providers a physician is supervising, as well.
The physicians facing the highest malpractice risk are obstetrician-gynecologists, and this bill could help ease that risk, according to Jeanne Conry, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“Clinical practice guidelines … provide ob-gyns with top-quality recommendations based on scientific research and input from expert obstetrician-gynecologists,” Conry said. “These guidelines help ensure the highest standards of patient care. It is essential that physicians who follow best practices in patient care be protected from liability.”
According to Bera, about 75% of all physicians face a malpractice claim sometime during their career.
“The fear of lawsuits can lead to care choices that protect the physician legally, like ordering unnecessary tests and procedures,” Bera said, “but may not be what evidence says is the best option for the patient.”