Tag Archives: North Carolina

Prescription Drug Abuse Threatens Successful Telemedicine Program

I’ve written several times about the medical and criminal liabilities caused by unscrupulous doctors over-prescribing pain medication. States like Florida are lousy with what have become commonly referred to as “pill mills,” which often skirt the law and add to the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Prescription drug overdoses now exceed the number of illegal street drug overdoses in the United States. Oftentimes, drug addicts are able to obtain prescriptions in these pain clinics without even seeing a physician. Now the practices of unscrupulous doctors are threatening to end a technology-based healthcare program that has proven successful in reaching hard-to-serve communities in North Carolina.

Since February of 2011, Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., has been using robots to serve the psychiatric needs of more remote emergency departments in rural North Carolina (psychiatrists are scarce in these remote emergency departments, and having a psychiatrist service these communities is expensive and difficult). Using HIPAA-compliant encryption, these robots are able to roam the hospitals’ emergency rooms, interacting with patients and diagnosing their ills. The program has been very successful, and both patients and doctors have been satisfied with the outcomes as well as convenience.

In response to the prescription drug abuse epidemic and the pill mills that make the controlled substances so easy for addicts acquire, Congress is considering two bills that would make it illegal to prescribe controlled substances without a face-to-face consult. This would effectively make the Mission Hospital’s telepsych program illegal, forcing them to end the use of robots to assess patients. HealthLeaders’ Scott Mace did an excellent story on this subject.

The real losers if one of these bills is passed will be the patient communities in isolated, rural areas. They would no longer have access to a psychiatrist. Another loser would be the movement to lower the cost of medicine. The robotic telepsych program is much more inexpensive than it would be to employ full-time psychiatrists in these remote communities; same for having a psychiatrist travel to each of the communities.

We need to address unscrupulous pain clinics as well as online pharmacies, but lets be certain that well-intended legislation doesn’t kill a promising new method for treating isolated patient populations.

North Carolina Med Mal Cap

Side Note: North Carolina will join the growing list of states that have caps on non-economic damages this October and we here at MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com are thrilled. (As a refresher, non-economic damages cover things like pain and suffering and emotional distress.) The cap is set at $500,000. However, the cap will not remain in place if two conditions are met in a medical malpractice case. They are if “a person is disfigured, loses the use of a body part or sustains permanent damage or death and the defendant’s actions were in reckless disregard of another or grossly negligent.”

In the long-term, the article theorizes (and we agree) that lawyers will be less likely to file the same number of cases that they have in the past, and will instead file fewer cases. In the short term, the article also suggests that there will be a flurry of med mal cases filed just under the October deadline, which commonly happens when caps are about to be put in place.

The new law did not pass without its share of drama. It was originally passed, then vetoed by the Gov. Perdue, and then the veto was overridden by lawmakers. And, others still contend that it may be challenged as unconstitutional.

In the meantime, we congratulate North Carolina and remain hopeful that this cap will be upheld and that the state, its physicians and citizens will soon see the benefits of this cap –including lower North Carolina physician liability rates, less practice of defensive medicine and wasting of resources, and North Carolina becoming a more attractive state for physicians.

Are you a North Carolina physician wanting to lower your North Carolina med mal premiums? If so, contact us today to see if we can help.

New N.C. malpractice law to cap certain damages
By: By Erin Zureick Dunn
From: StarNewsOnline.com
Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy PhysicianA med mal reform bill set to go into effect in October could deter North Carolina attorneys from accepting those cases, according to a nonprofit trial lawyers group.

It also could spark a flurry of malpractice filings before the law goes into effect, some believe.

You will find the full article here.

North Carolina's Attempts at Tort Reform

Side Note: North Carolina is attempting medical liability reform and the state is currently entertaining two different bills: one in the Senate and one in the House. The new North Carolina draft House bill aimed at med mal tort reform varies significantly from its Senate counter-part. First, the House bill would cap non-economic damages (eg, pain and suffering) at $250,000. The Senate bill sets the cap at $500,000. (There is currently no cap on non-economic damages in the state of North Carolina.) Second, the new House bill would have cases with punitive damages awarded over $100,000 have only one quarter of that go to the plaintiff. The remaining seventy-five percent would go to a new fund to support the state’s public schools. We here at MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com are not quite sure why punitive damages in a med mal case should support the state of North Carolina’s school system… Finally, the draft House bill would protect drug manufacturers from liability in lawsuits. Again, we here at MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com are not sure why. While we generally like to see attempts at tort reform, overall, this bill is not the best attempt at med mal reform that we’ve seen.

True med mal tort reform, like what has been accomplished in California, for example, can help to reduce the number of frivolous physician malpractice lawsuits and lower physicians’ medical malpractice insurance rates. We will continue to monitor North Carolina and keep you posted on their attempts at med mal reform. We hope that North Carolina will succeed in a reasonable tort reform effort and that its physicians will reap the rewards, including lower North Carolina liability insurance premiums.

Would you like to lower your North Carolina liability policy rates? To see if we can lower your med mal insurance rates, complete our free, no-obligation quote request form today.

Malpractice bill would protect drug companies
By Craig Jarvis
Posted: Thursday, Mar. 24, 2011

Doctor holding medical chartRALEIGH The House version of the medical malpractice reform bill that cleared the Senate this month would protect drug manufacturers from liability in lawsuits.

The draft legislation, presented Wednesday to the House Select Committee on Tort Reform, would also lower the cap on non-economic damages – such as pain and suffering – to $250,000 from each defendant. There is currently no limit on those damages; the Senate bill would cap damages at $500,000.

See the Full Article