Thursday, October 07, 2010

Erik DeLue on suing hospitalists

I always enjoy reading Erik DeLue's pieces in Today's Hospitalist. A recent article about the legal risks hospitalists face was prompted by his being asked to serve as an expert witness against another hospitalist who found himself within range of plaintiff attorney's shotgun, being sued just for “being there.” (Erik declined).

Particularly insightful is this:

Nonetheless, it is extremely important to come up with a clear definition of our scope of practice and make an effort to not overstep those boundaries to establish our legal culpability in such a case. We may be wise to always specify the limited consult for which we are brought in to provide care. Maybe I will sell rubber disclaimer stamps to my brethren to affirmatively exclude care for any and all other issues, except for the stated consult. 

It seems that the outcome of future litigation against hospitalists will revolve around how our scope of practice is defined, given the fact that ours is a field in which we don't yet have a substantial case history. So who should come up with that definition?

Well, if leaders of the Society of Hospital Medicine really want to represent their members in this area they should promulgate explicit limits on scope of practice in various situations, as the leaders of Emergency Medicine have done. Up to now SHM has done pretty much the opposite. It is creating a huge vulnerability for hospitalists. Plaintiff attorneys will become aware of this. The chickens will come home to roost.

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