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Week in Review

by Kroger Burrus on August 18th, 2013

Kroger | Burrus Week in Review


Brannan v. Toland
A patient who filed suit against a physician after the statute of limitations expired argued on appeal that the statute of limitations had been tolled when he provided a signed HIPAA medical release to the defendants. The Houston appellate court found the signed but otherwise blank medical release form did not substantially comply with the tolling provision under Chapter 74. The court noted that the patient failed to identify his treating physicians for the five years preceding the incident made the basis of his claim and did not authorize the release of their records, as required under Chapter 74.

In re Higby
A medical expert retained by a defendant health care provider filed a complaint with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) alleging that the plaintiff’s medical expert made false statements during the underlying lawsuit, violating ACOG’s ethical code. The plaintiff’s expert sued the defense expert for defamation. The defense expert refused to testify regarding his complaint to ACOG, arguing that it was privileged under the medical peer review privilege. The Houston appellate court agreed, holding that ACOG qualifies as a medical peer review committee.

Heritage at Longview Health Center v. Fitzgerald
The family of a nursing home patient who repeatedly fell at the facility filed suit alleging the nursing home should have installed a fall mat and chair and bed alarms. The Tyler appellate court found the plaintiffs’ expert report inadequate. The court noted that the patient’s injury involved striking the back of his head against a door and found that the expert report did not explain how a fall mat or safety alarms could have prevented this from happening.

Columbia Rio Grande v. Oldham
A patient who was injured after falling out of a hospital bed filed suit alleging that the hospital negligently failed to provide a warning about the effects of medication that was prescribed. The hospital sought dismissal on the basis that the patient did not submit an expert report. The Corpus Christi appellate court dismissed the case, concluding that it involved a question of medical care and qualified as a health care liability claim.


Penalties for Patients’ Readmissions to Double
Although the number of hospitals expected to face penalties for patient readmissions is expected to remain level, the potential severity of these fines is likely to double. The hospital readmissions reduction program is estimated to cut Medicare spending on hospitals by about $227 million over the next year.

Study: Malpractice Reform Does Not Reduce Defensive Medicine
State malpractice reform measures do not have a significant impact on physicians’ defensive medicine habits according to a recent study. Researchers found no consistent relationship between state caps on economic damages and the level of malpractice concern among physicians. Researchers have estimated that defensive medicine contributes an additional $50 billion to US health care spending annually.

New Medical School Faces First Amendment Challenge
As the University of Texas prepares to partner with a Catholic hospital network that will provide training at the new UT medical school some are already questioning the constitutionality of the arrangement. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter objecting that doctors affiliated with the Seton Healthcare Family would be required to follow the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives, which includes rules concerning birth control, abortion, and end-of-life care. The advocacy group maintains that doctors teaching at a state-owned medical school are government actors and requiring them to adhere to religious doctrine would violate the First Amendment.

Healthcare Job Growth Hits 10-Year Low
Job growth in the healthcare sector reached a 10-year low in July, but experts caution it is premature to conclude that this is symptomatic of a hiring slowdown and anticipate that job growth could rebound.

Texas Pharmacy Recalls Drugs After Patients Infected
A Texas pharmacy has recalled all of its compounded sterile products after 15 patients from two hospitals became ill from what federal health officials said were tainted sterile infusions. These patients are believed to have developed bacterial infections in their bloodstreams from infusions of calcium gluconate made at a compounding pharmacy in Cedar Park.

Administrative Errors Main Cause of Medical Errors
A study of instances in which patients were given incorrect medication found that administrative errors were responsible for the majority of mistakes, followed by transcription errors. Instances in which physicians prescribed medicine for the wrong patient accounted for only 12% of medication errors.

Study Finds Progress in Electronic Health Record Interoperability
There has been significant progress in getting health information systems to talk to one another, according to a recent federal study on interoperability. Researchers also found that the percentage of hospitals engaging in health information exchange increased from 41% to 58% over the past five years, although only 36% of hospitals reported exchanging health information with hospitals outside of their organization.

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