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Week in Review

by Kroger Burrus on February 4th, 2013


Rodriguez-Escobar v. Goss
The family of a woman who committed suicide filed suit against a psychiatrist who declined to involuntarily hospitalize her three days prior to her death. The Texas Supreme Court reversed the jury’s finding of liability on the basis that the evidence offered to prove proximate cause was not legally sufficient. The Court held that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the woman would probably not have committed suicide at some point in the future if she had been hospitalized.

Thomas v. Basse
An inmate filed suit pro se alleging that the prison doctor was performing unnecessary digital rectal exams to discourage him from seeking necessary medical treatment. The trial court dismissed the case on the basis that the inmate had not demonstrated that he had exhausted the prison grievance process before filing suit, as required by state law governing lawsuits filed by inmates who claim an inability to pay costs. The appellate court upheld the dismissal on the basis that the grievance paperwork the inmate submitted did not reflect the outcome of administrative proceedings and failed to show that administrative remedies were exhausted.

Holzman v. The State of Texas
The State of Texas brought suit against a doctor accused of dumping 200 patients’ medical records in a publicly accessible trash bin in violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act. The defendant physician sought dismissal on the basis that the state did not timely file a Chapter 74 expert report. The Corpus Christi appellate court upheld the trial court’s refusal to dismiss on the basis that the case was not a health care liability claim. Although Chapter 74 applies to claims involving breaches of patient privacy, the state did not satisfy the third element of a health care liability claim because it did not allege that any person was actually harmed.


Texas Children’s Hospital to Open New Pediatrics Associates Location
Texas Children’s Hospital is set to open its 47th Pediatrics Associates location. The 21,000 square foot facility will open February 11 off of Kirby Drive and West Alabama.

Painkiller Concerns Prompt DEA to Consider Tighter Restrictions
The Drug Enforcement Agency is considering heightened restrictions on drugs containing hydrocodone in an effort to address widespread drug abuse. The regulations would prohibit doctors from writing prescriptions for more than one month’s supply or from calling in new prescriptions without visiting patients. Some in the health care community believe even more restrictions are necessary, while others are concerned that tight regulations will make life more difficult for patients with chronic pain.

HHS Publishes HITECH, HIPAA, GINA Changes and Rules
HHS has published a series of rules and changes to the HITECH Act, HIPAA, and GINA that will take effect later this year. The changes include clarification of what constitutes a “business associate” subject to HIPAA, requirements for breach notifications, and the adoption of an objective standard of harm for identifying violations of the HITECH Act. A GINA requirement that health plans may not disclose genetic information for underwriting purposes has also been incorporated into the HIPAA privacy rule.

Health Reforms May Boost Demand, Lower Supply of New Doctors
Payment reforms under the federal health law may reduce physicians’ pay, discouraging students from attending medical school. The reforms may also prompt more medical school graduates to specialize in fields such as family medicine that feature shorter residency periods than specialties such as cardiac surgery.

Insurers Pushing to Limit Elective Early Deliveries
Children delivered at 38 weeks are at increased risk for breathing and developmental problems, but an estimated 10 to 15 percent of US babies are still delivered early without medical cause. Insurers are acting to reduce the number of early deliveries by offering hospitals more money if they reduce elective early deliveries, while others are refusing to pay for these deliveries altogether.

Hospitals Pursuing More Efficient Use of Space to Curb Costs
For decades hospitals have grown larger to address growing demand, but many are now striving to use existing space more efficiently and avoid costly capital expenditures. Organizations that once touted private rooms and large operating rooms are now marketing efforts to improve efficiency, such as using rapid medical evaluation areas to treat ER patients faster and minimizing room sizes while also increasing nurse visibility and contact.

 Cell Phones Offer Promising Resources, Tools for Medicine
As cell phone technology continues to evolve applications for these devices in the health sector are also rapidly expanding. Patients can use their devices to remind them when to take medicine, warn about drug interactions, monitor blood sugar through a dermal patch attachment, and track blood pressure and other vital signs that may prove insightful to a physician.

CHRISTUS St. Catherine Launches Fast Track Service Area
CHRISTUS St. Catherine has launched a fast track emergency care service area that will allow patients to receive rapid treatment for minor illnesses and injuries. Patients are expected to be seen within 15 minutes and released within one hour of arrival. The fast track area will be open from 11 AM to 11 PM seven days a week.

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