Discrepancies in public data raise risk of lawsuits


Although publicly available information can be incredibly useful, discrepancies in the information can be used to fuel an increase in lawsuits and large jury verdict awards in the healthcare industry.

This is according to Jeffrey Smith, senior vice president and healthcare leader with Lockton Companies.

"This information can and will be used by attorneys and other professionals who selectively pick certain damaging details to use against providers," he said. "Jury verdict sizes in medical malpractice claims against hospitals could meet the same fate as those against nursing homes."

In his white paper, Medical Malpractice Implications of the PPACA, Smith discusses how that fate resulted in Florida juries awarding verdicts totalling awards of $2.2 billion – among just three nursing home cases – 2012 and 2013.

Smith listed the key publicly available data of concern for the healthcare industry: risk-adjusted quality based reimbursements; hospital readmissions; hospital acquired conditions; patient surveys; and care transitions.

"Unfortunately, if courts are not consistent in their evidentiary rulings, more conditions of participation (CoPs) will be admitted, and more plaintiffs will use those regulatory tools as evidence of the standard of care," advised Smith.

As a result, to prepare for these possible inconsistencies, health system risk managers must bolster their basic knowledge of CoPs and understand the extent of their expertise to manage those risks.

Areas such as data monitoring, strategic ties to public data, hiring considerations, and survey readiness preparations are some of the starting points for risk managers to assess. According to Smith, this can help create a baseline in preparation for the potential landslide of lawsuits that appear to be on the horizon.

"We are now warned that the amount of publicly available information for hospitals and physicians will increase in the near future; therefore we expect more litigation against hospitals," said Smith. "It is critical to prepare for the coming wave of costly litigation."

Risk Management, IT and Data Security, Jeffrey Smith, Lockton Companies, PPACA, US