Clinical Integration and Medical Malpractice

The Affordable Care Act, put into law in 2010, aimed in part to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of medical care, and prevent medical malpractice by encouraging clinical integration. Here, the attorneys at AFSL explain how clinical integration works, and whether it lives up to these expectations.

Clinical integration is defined broadly as the coordination of care across a continuum of services, including preventive, outpatient, inpatient acute hospital care, post-acute and palliative measures to improve the value of the care provided. In theory, clinical integration is meant to increase healthcare value through the “Triple Aim” of care: improving the health of the population, reducing per capita costs and improving the experience of care. This includes lowering the risk of medical malpractice. Clinical integration can be enacted in a variety of ways, but ultimately providers across the spectrum of care share patients’ medical and financial information in order to prevent redundancies, conflicts between various prescription medications and general errors. In many cases, this information is shared through electronic health records (EHR’s).

There is a natural appeal to the concept of EHR’s: a patient’s entire medical history would be available to any medical practitioner in the country, all at the click of a few buttons. In theory, EHR’s make sense and have proved successful in some areas of practice. But, several serious issues, all of which can lead to medical malpractice, have indirectly resulted from the implementation of EHR’s and occurred throughout the spectrum of care.

  1. Physician Burnout – By encouraging the use of EHR’s, physicians are now burdened with larger amounts of clerical work: work done at a desk and behind a screen, away from patients–typing and downloading scrupulous notes on patient history, testing, care, treatment options and prescription medications. Studies show that this has led to higher rates of physician dissatisfaction and burnout—two mentalities that have been linked to increased rates of physician error and medical malpractice.
  2. Copy-and-Paste – Physician burnout has led to “short-cuts” in healthcare: a copy-and-paste protocol that saves time at the expense of thorough editing and updating. In some cases, care facilities have disabled electronic safety alerts on EHR’s to save time and cut down on the burden of intense note-keeping. This can lead to incorrect or out-of-date information in patient records being copy-and-pasted, leaving a patient’s care wide-open to mistakes and negligence.
  3. Profit-Motivated Negligence – When given the responsibility of trimming costs within expensive healthcare systems, caretakers and physicians are forced to consider which of several outcomes is more important, instead of focusing solely on their Hippocratic oath. The incentivization of money-saving techniques and reimbursement fostered by the clinical integration systems, at times, creates issues of profit-motivated negligence. When a physician refuses to do a test, or provide a certain service in effort to save money, they are were weighing the cost-saving benefit of their actions over the health and wellness of the patient and in turn putting a patient at risk.

Have you been the victim of medical malpractice or are you concerned that an error has been made in your medical records leading to improper care? Contact the victim’s attorneys of AFSL to learn more about your rights to proper medical care, or to schedule a consultation regarding your medical malpractice claim.