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Texas Medical Liability Reforms - A Model for the Nation

  • Synopsis: Published: 2011-01-21 - New law has drawn more emergency and critical care physicians to Texas and improved patient safety - American College of Emergency Physicians.

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Hundreds of Physicians Have Moved to the State, Patient Safety has Improved.

As Congress considers national medical liability reform; the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) today said that the state of Texas is a model of reform for the nation. Responding to testimony provided Thursday at a U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary hearing, Dr. Sandra Schneider, president of ACEP said that the new law has drawn more emergency and critical care physicians to the state and improved patient safety.

"Since the passage of reform in Texas, 799 emergency care physicians have moved to the state, including rural areas, giving more people access to medical care and increasing patient safety," said Dr. Sandra Schneider, president of the ACEP. "Since the passage of reforms, 26 Texas counties that had no emergency physicians now do. In addition, emergency patient wait times have dropped significantly, and patient safety has improved in the state from 2006 to 2009, according to the 2009 National Report Card on the State of Emergency Medicine."

"Texas has achieved the second biggest improvement for emergency patient wait times among all 50 states, according to a 2010 report from Press Ganey," said Dr. Schneider. "Despite growing demand and the highest uninsured population in the nation, Texas provides greater access to medical care for patients, often closer to home, and patients harmed by acts or omissions of ER physicians are able to go to court and collect damages."

Dr. Schneider said the Texas law addresses the unique challenges of diagnosing and treating emergency patients.

"Often there is no prior medical history, and many times emergency physicians must make snap decisions with limited information under the most dire circumstances," said Dr. Schneider. "Without this law, there would be fewer emergency physicians in the state and specialists needed to care for you, beyond what the emergency physician can do. They simply would not perform high-risk procedures out of fear of lawsuits. This is a problem across the country, leaving many areas with limited access to specialists, such as neurosurgeons, orthopedists and hand surgeons. As a result, patients must travel farther and wait longer to receive needed care. In some cases, this can be life-threatening."

According to the Texas Alliance for Patient Access (TAPA), 82 Texas counties have seen net gains in emergency physicians since the passage of the law. Thirty-three rural counties have added at least one emergency physician, including 24 counties that previously had none. In addition, since the passage of reforms, hospitals are no longer closing or limiting their emergency services, and many have expanded their emergency services.

"In states with liability reforms, trial attorneys work relentlessly to overturn those reforms, because reforms dampen the ability of trial attorneys to file frivolous and shake down lawsuits," said Dr. Schneider. "Not only does unbridled litigation drive emergency care specialists away, it also puts critically ill and injured patients at risk."

ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

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