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Week in Review

by Kroger Burrus on December 31st, 2012


 Jones v. Brazoria County Surgery Center
A physician partnership argued it could not be liable for a surgeon’s alleged malpractice because the surgeon was not acting within the partnership’s ordinary course of business or with its authority. The partnership asserted that the surgeon was not acting within the partnership’s ordinary course of business because he was practicing medicine and partnerships are prohibited from practicing medicine. Summary judgments in the partnership’s favor were reversed by a Houston appellate court. The court noted that Texas law permits physician partnerships if the partnership does not control treatment decisions. The court also rejected an argument that the partnership agreement only authorized partners to perform surgeries that were within a reasonable standard of care.


Medicare Releases Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Adjustment Factors
Medicare has released two sets of measurements that will be used to determine whether reimbursements will be adjusted upward or downward. A set of 12 “process” measures evaluate how well hospitals are adhering to clinical guidelines. A set of eight measures based on patient surveys will also help determine bonuses or penalties. Medicare will compare both how a hospital compared to its peers as well as how well it improved over the previous year and use the higher score to calculate payments.

Studies Suggest Surgeons Make 4,000 Preventable Mistakes a Year
Almost 10,000 instances of preventable surgical errors that occurred between 1990 and 2010 are included in the National Practitioner Data Bank, but the actual number of errors is likely much higher. A recent study suggests that only 12% of surgical adverse events are reflected in the data bank, meaning that it is likely that more than 4,000 preventable surgery errors occur in the US annually.

Hackers Take Aim at Electronic Medical Record Data
Hackers have taken the electronic records of an Australian medical practice virtually hostage by remotely encrypting the data and demanding a ransom to release the records. A small number of US health care providers have also reported cyber-attacks. While the number of incidents is low, the threat hackers pose may grow substantially as health care providers increasingly adopt electronic medical record systems.

Study Finds Errors in EHRs Spread Quickly
Errors made in electronic health records are comparable to those made with paper-based systems, according to a recent study, but tend to be amplified and can affect a larger group of people.

Hospitals Establish Competency Tests for Aging Physicians
As the average age of physicians rises some hospitals have implemented competency tests for physicians in their 70s. Approximately 42% of the nation’s physicians are over 55 and 21% are older than 65. Critics of competency tests note that physicians’ fitness to practice is already evaluated every two years when hospitals consider whether or not to renew privileges.

Study Launched to ER Doctors Avoid Distractions
Over the next four years researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center will study ER physicians in action as part of an effort to improve emergency room efficiency. The study will be conducted at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, one of the nation’s busiest trauma centers.

Texas Cancer Agency’s Grant Draws Federal Scrutiny
Federal officials from the National Cancer Institute are evaluating a Texas cancer agency whose award of an $11 million grant without proper peer review is already under investigation by state officials. The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas is one of the few agencies that have received NCI-approved funding status in recognition of high standards for peer review and conflict of interest screening. CPRIT’s executive director has stated that the improper funding was a mistake and that nobody at the agency stood to profit from the award.

Medicare Fraud Prevention Computer System Saves Millions
A computer system designed to detect fraudulent Medicare claims before they are paid flagged $115 million in fraudulent claims in its first year. The Fraud Prevention System applies the same methods credit card companies use to identify improper claims before they are paid. In its first year of implementation data analyzed by the system has helped launch 536 new investigations.

American Medical Association Warns Doctors on Divided Loyalty
The American Medical Association has issued a reminder to doctors whose practices were purchased by hospitals that patient welfare must be paramount. The association is encouraging hospitals and medical groups to adopt policies to protect doctors’ professional autonomy. The AMA is also discouraging doctors from entering into non-compete agreements that can limit a patient’s choice in providers.

FDA Approves Tamiflu for Infants
The FDA has approved the use of Tamiflu to treat children as young as two weeks old. Tamiflu may now be administered to children under age one who have exhibited flu symptoms for no more than two days. The drug was not approved to prevent flu infection in this age group.

Study Questions Disparity in Texas, California Tubal Ligation Rates
A greater proportion of Texas women choose to undergo tubal ligation after delivering a child than women in California, according to a recent study. One in 15 women in California elected to undergo sterilization after delivery compared to one in 10 Texas women. The study’s authors questioned whether access to fewer low-cost family planning options in Texas encouraged more women to request sterilization.

Justice Declines to Block Morning-After Pill Coverage Mandate
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has denied a request by Hobby Lobby to block a portion of the federal health care law that requires employee health care plans to cover emergency contraceptives. Justice Sotomayor found that the company did not satisfy the standard for emergency relief, but noted that it may continue its challenge in the lower courts. Hobby Lobby officials have stated that the company will face daily $1.3 million fines beginning January 1, 2013 if it does not comply with the challenged law.

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