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Health Courts Could Become Tort Reform Option

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, March 3, 2010

A special health court proposal could be structured to fit certain situations at the state level, Howard says. One option at the state level is a pilot program for compensating certain types of injuries outside the tort system. With another approach, healthcare providers could create a voluntary program that links error disclosure with structured arbitration and a predictable process for determining damages.

Overall, one of the health court system's strong points is reliability and consistency, Howard says.

"The current system is based on kind of an ad hoc mode. One case with a set of facts is decided one way. The next case, with exactly the same set of facts, is decided exactly the opposite way. There's no consistency from case to case," he adds.

Another key area is speed—"both for patients and for physicians," Howard says. Action on the case would take place immediately—not years later.

In addition, patient safety is a factor, he says. "In our system, all of the data from settlements and cases gets fed back into the system so people can learn from their mistakes."


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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