Health Courts Would Curb 'Staggering Waste,' Attorney Says

Joe Cantlupe, October 18, 2012

Philip K. Howard, JD, founder and chair of a Washington D.C.-based government reform organization named Common Good, and whose trustees espouse the spectrum of political views, from conservative Newt Gingrich to liberal Bill Bradley, is convinced that the government can make a major push to curtail the high cost of malpractice litigation.

He's not joking.

The creation of health courts would erode this bane of physicians' practices, and make a major dent in the costly toll malpractice has on healthcare, he argues. Health courts—specialized, fast-paced, administrative courts—would speed the resolution of malpractice suits, which are currently mired in the slow, plodding "regular" courts where litigation drags on for years.  

These specialty courts for healthcare matters also could help establish standards that would thwart the use of costly "defensive medicine" that physicians enlist to offset litigation in the first place, Howard says.

"Health courts are aimed not at stopping lawsuits, but at making medical justice reliably distinguish between good care and bad," Howard wrote this month in the Health Affairs blog. "They, therefore, hold the key to eliminating the staggering waste of defensive medicine better than any other proposed reform."

Howard, a partner in the Covington & Burling Washington D.C. law firm, founded Common Good in 2002, which, he says, is "advising federal, state, and local officials on government overhaul, regulatory reform and elimination of obsolete laws."

Joe Cantlupe Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.Twitter

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