Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Study: Insurers Create Crises to Increase Profits, Push Tort Reform

The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer reported, "A new study produced by consumer and public-interest groups claims insurance companies create periodic crises to drive up profits. The Americans for Insurance Reform study says these crises, where coverage becomes unaffordable or unavailable, are known as 'hard markets,' sending premiums sky-high." In addition, the study's authors "claim the insurance industry uses these supposedly manufactured crises to support their calls for 'tort reform' -- asking legislators for new laws making it more difficult to sue." The Insurance Information Institute disputes the study's conclusions.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Drivers Aren't the Only Ones Distracted by Their Devices--Doctors Are Too

The NY Times reported: "Hospitals and doctors’ offices, hoping to curb medical error, have invested heavily to put computers, smartphones and other devices into the hands of medical staff for instant access to patient data, drug information and case studies.  But like many cures, this solution has come with an unintended side effect: doctors and nurses can be focused on the screen and not the patient, even during moments of critical care. And they are not always doing work; examples include a neurosurgeon making personal calls during an operation, a nurse checking airfares during surgery and a poll showing that half of technicians running bypass machines had admitted texting during a procedure."  Read more.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Medal of Honor Recipient Sues Defense Contractor for Defamation

Dakota Meyer, who saved 36 comrades during an ambush in Afghanistan, is suing his former employer for allegedly calling him mentally unstable and suggesting he had a drinking problem, thereby costing him a job.  Read more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Study: Many Malpractice Suits From Failure to Notify Patients of Test Results

The Washington Post reported that a new "study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology found that annual medical malpractice payouts for communication breakdowns, including failing to share test results, more than quadrupled nationally between 1991 and 2010, to $91 million." In order to reach this conclusion, researchers analyzed "medical malpractice claims from 425 hospitals and 52,000 providers." They found that "of the 306 cases in which test results were specifically cited as a factor in a malpractice case, the most common problem -- it occurred almost half the time -- was that the patient didn't receive the test results." Failure to notify clinicians of test results was also another major problem.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quiet Hybrids Are More Dangerous for Pedestrians

"Hybrid cars are safer -- or more dangerous -- depending on whether you are behind the wheel or walking across a street, according to a study released Thursday." Research from the Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, shows that "occupants in hybrid vehicles suffer fewer injuries in crashes than those who are involved in accidents in conventional cars." Yet, "the same study also found that hybrids, which tend to be quieter -- cause more pedestrian accidents than their nonhybrid counterparts."  Read more.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

IIHS Says Hybrids Safer Due to Extra Battery Weight

"People who invest in hybrid cars are significantly less likely to be injured in an accident because their heavy batteries make the vehicles safer than traditional cars, according to an insurance industry report released Thursday." Typically, hybrids are "10 percent heavier than a traditional car of the same size, and the extra heft reduces the odds of being hurt in a crash by 25 percent, the report says." The data were released by the Highway Loss Data Institute, "an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety." Read more.

CT Company Cited by OSHA for Numerous Safety Violations

"A Pomfret cable manufacturer faces $177,000 in fines for more than two dozen workplace safety violations -- including a repeat violation for inadequate machine safeguarding, according to federal authorities." OSHA says that "Loos & Co. was cited for 29 alleged violations for electrical, chemical, mechanical, fire and exit hazards at its plant." Paul Mangiafico, OSHA's area director in Hartford stated that the violations "expose employees to the hazards of electrocution, fire, crushing injuries, being caught in moving or unexpectedly energized machinery, hearing loss and being unable to exit the building swiftly in the event of fire or other emergency." Read more.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Report: Tort Reform Made Texas Healthcare Worse

According to the Austin American Statesman, a report, titled "A Failed Experiment," by Public Citizen "says the 2003 Texas law that limited damage awards in malpractice suits has caused health care spending to rise and has not significantly increased the number of doctors in Texas." While "Gov. Rick Perry has touted the benefits of the law," the report found "that, contrary to Perry's claims, the per capita increase in the number of doctors practicing in the state has been much slower since the state passed the so-called tort reform law than it was before the law." The report concludes "that using Texas as a model would benefit doctors and insurers - not residents."

The Fort Worth Star Telegram writes that the "report shows that healthcare costs and insurance premiums have continued to rise in Texas even more than the national average since the state's tort reform legislation, and that the number of uninsured Texans has continued to climb."  Still the report did find that medical malpractice insurance premiums as well as payments have decreased.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Doc's Reasons for Over-Treating Patients

In the NY Times "Well" blog, Pauline W. Chen, MD, discusses an Archives of Internal Medicine article which found that almost half of doctors "believed that patients in their practice were receiving too much care." Doctors pointed to three factors: "inadequate time allotted to patients led them to order more tests or refer to specialists," the fear of litigation or perception of "not doing enough," and "the current quality measures and clinical guidelines" that sometimes promote excessive testing, especially since "insurers are increasingly linking payment to these guidelines."

Monday, September 26, 2011

CDC's Child Passenger Safety Info

The CDC says that in 2009, 1,314 children ages 14 years and younger died in motor vehicle crashes, and approximately 179,000 were injured.  Get its lastest info on child passenger safety here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Justice Dept's Inexcusable Waste

$16 muffins and other wasteful spending-story here.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Study: Liability Suits Common But Most Doctors Will Win

The American Medical News reported that although nearly all physicians "will be sued at least once during their career," most cases "will end in their favor," according to a study published Aug. 18 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study authors estimated that by "age 65, 75% of physicians in low-risk specialties will have experienced a lawsuit, compared with 99% of physicians in high-risk specialties." The analysis of "claims data on about 41,000 physicians between 1991 and 2005" indicated less than "2% of those sued make payments to plaintiffs" and that neurosurgeons are "sued more often than any other specialists." Annually, an average "7.4% of physicians experienced a medical liability claim," of whom only "1.6% made payments to plaintiffs." 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New CDC Analysis of Distracted Driving in U.S., Europe

A new analysis by the CDC examined the frequency of cell phone use and texting while driving in the United States and several European countries within Europe. Among the findings:

Overall, 25% of drivers in the United States reported that they talk on their cell phone "regularly" or "fairly often" while driving. Younger age groups had higher use, with nearly 40% of those ages 18 to 29 reporting that they talk on their cell phone "regularly" or "fairly often" while driving.

The percentage of European drivers who reported using the cell phone "regularly" or "fairly often" while driving ranged from 21% in the Netherlands to 3% in the United Kingdom. Read more.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Welcome Mike McDonnell! Plus July Newsletter

Michael McDonnell, one of the state's most experienced trial attorneys, has joined the Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck.  We're so pleased to have Mike on our team.  He has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in all types of personal injury cases and knows how to build a winning case. 

Also, it's that time of the month: newsletter time!  You'll find lots of good info in our July newsletter. Read it here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hospitals Do Better When Run by Doctors

In its "Well" blog, the New York Times examined new research published in the journal Social Science & Medicine that found that "overall hospital quality scores were about 25 percent higher when doctors" rather than business administrators ran hospitals, and "for cancer care, doctor-run hospitals posted scores 33 percent higher." The research is "based on a review of 300 top-ranked American hospitals in the specialties of cancer, digestive disorders and heart surgery" and was done by senior researcher Amanda Goodall of the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany. She "said the finding was consistent with her research in other fields, which has shown, among other things, that research universities perform better when led by outstanding scholars and that basketball teams perform better when led by former top players." Still, she said she "was surprised by the strength of the finding."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Congratulations, Judge Martin

The Law Firm of Stephen M. Reck offers sincere congratulations to New London Judge Robert A. Martin on his receipt of the 2011 CTLA Judicial Award.  Judge Martin truly deserves this honor for his many years of distinguished service to the State of Connecticut, and we are proud of his achievement.

Friday, June 10, 2011

MA Family Sues After Child's Fatal Fall From Escalator

The AP reported a Massachusetts family filed a negligence lawsuit against Simon Property Group Inc., Sears, Schindler Elevator Corp., and Botany Bay Construction after their son "slipped through a gap" between an escalator and railing "that was wider than allowed by state law," said family attorney Tom Smith. Smith said elevator installation plans "called for a barrier to close the gap," but neither Simon Property nor Sears enforced the plans, Smith said. Mark's DiBona's death spurred statewide elevator inspections, after which the Department of Public Safety "fired two inspectors, suspended six and reprimanded 26 others after a sweep of all escalators in Massachusetts found 7.5 percent lacked barricades required to cover the gap between the moving staircases and walls or rails."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Salmonella Cases Rising

The Washington Post reported, "Food poisoning cases caused by salmonella have increased by 10 percent in recent years, despite widespread campaigns to educate consumers and foodmakers about food preparation and handling, according to" data from the annual food safety report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
USA Today reported, "The latest federal FoodNet report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that total food-borne-illness cases dropped by nearly a quarter in the past decade and a half, but salmonella infections have steadily refused to drop, climbing slightly in recent years." The report "collected 2010 outbreak data and lab results from 10 states, and directly identified 4,200 hospitalizations and 68 deaths from nine food-borne diseases. Salmonella, a group of roughly 2,500 strains of intestinal bacteria, was responsible for most of those cases, including 23 of the deaths."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Be Sure to Read Our June Newsletter!

Cell phone cancer risk, leaking nuke plants, medical errors, distracted driving, and more. Click here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Read Our May Newsletter

Click here for stories about the high cost of medical errors, kids' safety and much more!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

GAO: FDA Device Approval Process Endangers Patients

The AP reported, "Government investigators say the Food and Drug Administration is putting patients at risk by approving sensitive medical devices such as hip joints and heart defibrillators under the same streamlined system intended for power wheelchairs, stitches and catheters."  The "Government Accountability Office told Congress Wednesday that the approvals remain a serious issue for the government -- more than two years after the watchdog agency first cited the problem to the FDA." In response, Dr. William Maisel, deputy director for science in FDA's device center, said that the agency "will reclassify the 26 types of high-risk devices cited by GAO before the end of 2012."

CQ reported that the GAO findings were based on an "analysis of 3,510 voluntary recalls from 2005 through 2009." The results were "discussed as part of a debate over whether the agency should update the so-called 510(k) process, which is the main procedure for approving medical devices. The process was intended to be an approval route for products similar to those already on the market; unlike another rarely-used and more stringent review for new products, known as the premarket approval (PMA) process, the 510(k) procedure does not require manufacturers to test devices in people before selling them in the United States."

Monday, April 11, 2011

CT Scans May Put Kids' Health at Risk

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel noted that according to a study in the journal Radiology, "children underwent five times more CT scans" during emergency department visits in "2008 than they did 13 years before -- and 90 percent of the exams were done in hospitals that do not specialize in pediatrics." Perhaps that is "not too surprising in an age in which computed tomography...has proven revolutionary in the diagnosis of all kinds of injuries and ailments." But, with these rewards "come significant risks, especially for children most susceptible to them, and the danger doesn't seem to be lighting much of a fire, for parents or the doctors they're trusting with their children's lives."

Monday, April 4, 2011

$1B Suit Against Facebook for Page Promoting Violence Against Israel, Jews

AFP reported, "Facebook and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg have been hit with a lawsuit seeking more than $1 billion in damages over a page on the social network which called for a 'Third Intifada' against Israel." Plaintiff Larry Klayman, a Jew and founder of political-based group Freedom Watch said Facebook "showed 'negligence' by not quickly responding to appeals to remove the page." Facebook "said the page was initially tolerated because it 'began as a call for peaceful protest' but direct calls for violence began appearing and the page was removed for violating Facebook's policies."

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reported the page, which was "was 'liked' by more than 350,000 users," featured "a call to kill Jews and talk of liberating Jerusalem through violence," according to the lawsuit. ZDNet reported the lawsuit alleges Facebook's delay in removing the page was "was an effort by Facebook and Zuckerberg to increase the social network's net worth based on viewership and use." The page was removed on Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tractor Trailer Crashes Increasing

According to a report released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 2010 was one of the worst years for truckers and those who crossed their path. Last year, 5,000 people lost their lives and some 100,000 were injured in crashes involving this type of vehicle, compared to the 3,200 deaths recorded in 2009. And the outlook is even worse, says the IIHS, as more new trucks will hit the roads in the years to come.  Read more.

National Safety Council Finds Fatal Intersection Crashes Declined

A new study issued by the National Safety Council reports that fatal crashes at intersections with traffic lights decreased by 17% and fatal crashes at intersections involving red-light running decreased by 27% from 2005 to 2009. "This report shows that we are making large strides as a nation in reducing crashes at intersections," said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "However, despite the improvement there were still 12,396 fatal crashes at intersections with traffic lights, including 4,394 fatal intersection crashes involving red-light running during that five year period. While we are making progress, the 13,266 fatalities from these crashes remind us that we have much more to do." The study analyzed fatal crash data in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, using statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Read more.

FDA Official: Another Public Health Crisis "Inevitable"

CNNMoney reported, "A senior Food and Drug Administration regulator warned that another public health crisis may be inevitable because the agency can't guarantee the safety of many drugs and food products manufactured overseas." John Taylor, FDA's acting principal deputy commissioner, "said the safety agency must reinvent itself to operate more effectively globally, or 'another public health crisis like Heparin seems inevitable.'" Taylor said the agency is "crippled in its mission to protect the health of Americans since a lot of medicine sold in the US is made abroad and outside of strict FDA oversight."

Monday, March 14, 2011

NHTSA Still Needs Crash Test Dummies for Children

The Washington Post reported on NHTSA's difficulties in developing crash-test dummies that will allow it to set safety standards for car seats and booster seats intended for children over 65 pounds. At present those seats "are not held to any government safety requirements."  Problems with developing child dummies are a "key reason why seats for all children have no federal requirements for effectiveness in side-impact, rear-end and rollover collisions." NHTSA Deputy Administrator Ronald Medford said that "NHTSA tests 75 to 90 models each year." The Post notes that under federal law, "a dummy to mimic a 10-year-old's body was supposed to be developed by late 2004," but "is still in development." And "Medford said the NHTSA hopes to have safety standards for higher-weight seats finalized this year and the dummy's flaws corrected in 2013." One expert said that "'NHTSA doesn't have the money to fund all the research we need' to develop accurate dummies."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Study: Many Medical Errors Caused by Doctors Not Listening to Patients

Modern Healthcare notes: "Great effort goes into stopping preventable errors such as wrong-site surgeries, but authors of a study on unwanted variation in elective procedures say that many more errors are taking place because physicians are not listening to their patients."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lawyers Worried that Diminishing Trials Are a "Dying Art"

The Tennessean reported an increasing trend away from settling disputes with a jury trial is raising concern among Tennessee attorneys about the decline of trial law. Darrell Townsend said "The paradox is you want to be able to train young lawyers, and having them try cases is the best way. ... At the same time, you are obligated to serve the best interests of your client, and oftentimes their interests are best served by not going to trial." Veteran attorney John Branham said, "I think the concern is it's kind of a dying art," noting that avoiding trials saves time for plaintiffs and money for "risk-averse businesses."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Healthcare Tort Reform Claims Exaggerated

A Daily Kos blog argued against healthcare tort reform proposals, noting medical malpractice's less than 1.5% of healthcare costs "hardly makes tort reform worthy of the attention it receives for cutting health care costs. Furthermore, tort reform has already been implemented in more than half of the states in some form," so many states would feel no impact from additional reforms. The blog cited Texas' growing healthcare costs and lead status in the number of uninsured citizens, even after implementing tort reforms in 2003. Also, tort reforms wouldn't necessarily reduce defensive medicine practices, as litigation risks will always exist, and "evidence suggests that the profit motive" from defensive medicine "would continue to drive defensive medicine practices."

Fear of Litigation Makes Some Hospitals Wary of Video Cameras in Delivery Rooms

The New York Times reported that some hospitals are reconsidering policies to allow video cameras in delivery rooms "as they seek to balance safety and legal protection against the desire by some new mothers to document all aspects of their lives, including the entire birth process." While data tracking such policies is unavailable, Mike Matray of the Medical Liability Monitor said the matter "had been moving up on hospital agendas."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Courant Calls for National Strategy On Preventable Medical Errors

The Hartford Courant editorializes, "Two recent reports exposed the disgraceful fact that Americans are at risk of dying from preventable medical errors and lapses in treatment when they go to hospitals to get help. It's time that Congress addressed this issue on a national level, instead of letting each state decide to do something -- or not." The paper cited "a report in the New England Journal of Medicine" that "showed that hospitals are not getting safer for patients." Separately, "a study on the Medicare population by the office of the inspector general of Health and Human Services, said that harm -- again, largely due to preventable errors – contributed to prolonging treatment or hospitalizations of 134,000 Medicare patients in one month (about one in seven patients)," the editorial noted.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Administration Going After Medicare/Medicaid Fraud, Waste and Abuse

Time reports, "There is no official figure for how much fraud costs" Medicare and Medicaid "each year, but the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association (made up of 100 private insurers and public agencies) conservatively estimates that at least $60 billion is lost on an annual basis, close to about 10% of Medicare and Medicaid's combined annual spending." Consequently, "the Obama Administration committed $1.7 billion this past fiscal year for fighting health care fraud, waste and abuse, significantly more than the figure in previous years. Those resources are helping to propel law-enforcement efforts, now concentrated in interagency teams, known as HEAT strike forces (Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Teams) that are focused on seven cities." Gerry Roy, of the HHS Office of Inspector General, said, "We are just beginning to scratch the surface."