Stephen Schoenbaum and Randall Bobjerg, from the Commonwealth Fund and the Urban Institute respectively, probably just got themselves crossed off the AMA’s Christmas card list by publishing this article in the Annals of Internal Medicine. They suggest that doctors are paying too much attention to malpractice and not enough to actually improving patient safety. In case you missed the point, Schoenbaum, an ex-Exec at Harvard Community Health Plan, one of the "good guys" HMOs is quoted in this interview as saying "All the discussion is about how do we minimize the impact of the suits rather than how do we minimize the number of suits". He also points out that certain groups of physicians, notably anesthesiologists, have improved their patient safety activities over time leading to the question of why other specialists have not.
I’m going to waffle as to whether greater efforts by specialists to improve patient safety would be immediately effective, given my fuzzy position on whether evidence based medicine is easily-attainable in the real world (see yesterday’s post on appendectomy failure rates). But it is fair to say that if some of the energy physicians spend on malpractice reform was redirected towards patient safety issues, we’d all be better off.