HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Care Coordination and Liability Concerns

Hallmc Professor Mark Hall has a new article in the Annals of Family Medicine entitled, "Liability Implications of Physician-Directed Care Coordination."  It provides an interesting overview of the current liability situation for those physicians involved in care coordination with statistical data obtained from recent interviews as support for his conclusion that care coordination may lead to lower liability risk. 


Various public and private initiatives encourage physicians to coordinate care for patients with multiple chronic conditions, but physicians may resist doing so for fear of liability. This article assesses the extent of liability risk using qualitative methods that combine legal research with key informant interviews. Some aspects of care coordination for patients with multiple chronic conditions hold potential for higher liability.

Physicians coordinating care have a broader responsibility for patients with complex conditions who have a greater chance of poor outcomes. Care coordinators may be held to a higher standard of care by adopting best practices guidelines or by making medical decisions on issues that require specialized expertise. However, other aspects lower liability risk: elderly patients are less likely to sue; care coordination should improve outcomes; and the information systems that support enhanced care coordination target the major sources of medical error in primary care. On balance, the liability risks of care coordination are commensurate with other risks in primary care practice. Liability insurers indicated no reluctance to insure physicians who coordinate care for patients with multiple chronic conditions, and no strong tendency to attribute higher risk to this role. Physicians who currently perform these or similar functions have not encountered demonstrably higher liability. On balance, there is no strong basis for physicians who perform care coordination functions to have serious concerns about liability; instead, care coordination done well may lower liability risks.

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