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Week in Review

by Kroger Burrus on January 28th, 2013

CASES

Ahmed v. Texas Tech Health Science Center
An assistant professor of medicine brought a Whistleblower Act claim against his university alleging that he was retaliated against for questioning a new surgeon’s qualifications. The trial court dismissed the case on sovereign immunity grounds. The Amarillo appellate court affirmed, holding that the plaintiff did not satisfy a requirement under the Whistleblower Act that the party alleging retaliation must have first reported an unlawful act to a law enforcement authority. The plaintiff had reported his concerns to a superior at the university and to the credentialing committees at hospitals where the surgeon sought privileges. The court held that although the university employee and credentialing committees have an obligation to report fraudulent credentials this obligation does not qualify them as law enforcement authorities.

Salvato v. Winsmann
The plaintiff in a health care liability claim nonsuited her case after one of the defendant physicians filed a motion to dismiss for failure to provide an expert report. The trial court initially refused to dismiss the case and award attorney’s fees, but later complied with instructions from a Houston appellate court and awarded $600 in attorney’s fees to the defendant. The defendant appealed on the basis that this order was issued after the trial court’s authority over the case had expired. The Houston appellate court affirmed, holding that the deadline for the trial court to act began to run when the order granting plaintiff’s nonsuit was entered, not when the nonsuit was filed or when an order granting attorney’s fees to the physician’s codefendants was signed.

NEWS

Routine Physicals Waste Money, Offer Little Benefit
Routine physicals are intended to catch health problems early, but an extensive study has found that check-ups have no significant effect on mortality rates or hospitalizations. Researchers estimate that follow-up testing from general health checks contributed to an annual $210 billion in unnecessary medical services in the US.

Doctors Encouraged to Ask About Exercise Habits
Only a third of Americans surveyed report that their doctors ask about their exercise habits, but a movement is underway to encourage doctors to inquire into exercise routines and include patients’ responses in their medical charts. In some instances, promoting exercise may improve health outcomes before a pharmaceutical solution is necessary.

Veteran Awarded $3.7 Million in Lawsuit over PTSD Treatment
A federal judge awarded $3.7 million to a Marine Corps veteran who alleged that poor treatment of his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused his psychological condition to deteriorate. The veteran claimed that clinicians at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Plains Township, Virginia did not properly treat his PTSD, prescribed the wrong medication and did not immediately offer psychotherapy.

Texas Children’s Hospital Opens Pearland OB/GYN Practice
Texas Children’s Hospital has launched its first community-based OB/GYN practice in Pearland. A ribbon cutting ceremony this week will celebrate the opening of the OB/GYN practice, as well as last month’s opening of neighboring Texas Children’s Pediatrics.

CHRISTUS Health Commemorates New Irving Headquarters
CHRISTUS Health has completed the transition to operating out of a new, consolidated Irving-based headquarters. The move is expected to add 1,000 jobs to Irving by midyear.

‘Sticker Shock’ For Imaging Tests Doesn’t Phase Docs
A Johns Hopkins University study found that providing clinicians with cost information about frequently ordered imaging studies did not lead to fewer orders for CTs, x-rays and ultrasounds. A comparable study involving laboratory tests resulted in a 27% decline in the number of tests ordered.

‘Global Burden of Disease’ Project Highlights Health Burden
A massive effort to understand how health problems burden people across the globe was launched 22 years ago and culminated recently in the publication of the Global Burden of Disease. Between 1990 and 2010 mortality rates have dropped by 20%, but while people are living longer they are not living healthier and the burden of disabilities remains about the same. Researchers also found that the main source of illness has shifted from communicable diseases (with the exception of HIV / AIDS), maternal health problems, and nutritional deficiencies to non-communicable diseases.

Patient Satisfaction Survey Value Questioned
Patient satisfaction surveys may prove useless in the long run. While negative responses inspire task forces to pursue performance improvements, survey data suggests that those efforts are suspended after survey responses improve, resulting in a cyclical “feedback loop” and no sustained improvements.

Routine Chest X-Ray Use in ICU Challenged
Health care providers have routinely ordered chest X-rays for ICU patients for decades, but concerns over the time and cost associated with the tests and hazards posed by repeat radiation have inspired some to curb the practice. Physicians at hospitals in Canada have adopted a policy of only ordering chest X-rays on a case-by-case basis to control costs and save time.

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