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Team-Based Care Raises Questions about Medical Liability

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Medical Economics recently compiled a list of the “Top 10 challenges facing physicians in 2016.” So far, these challenges have involved ever-changing payment models, the 2016 elections and healthcare reform, chronic care management, payer consolidation, the decision to remain independent or seek employment, the challenges related to MOC, Meaningful Use Stage 2 attestation, and remote medicine.

Wrapping up our look at the challenges involving physicians who are attempting to transition to team-based care, we turn our attention to the issue of medical liability, which according to the publication, is a main worry for physicians who are uncertain about this particular care strategy.

Julie Brightwell, BSN, JD, who is a medical-liability and patient-safety expert at The Doctors Company, told Medical Economics that “[p]hysicians can be held liable for the errors of non-physician providers under their supervision” and “solid and consistent communication and documentation are vital to mitigating these risks.”

According to Brightwell, “The bottom line for the physician is they really need to be completely familiar and compliant with the state laws or regulations. They should know what the definition of supervision and collaboration are, and make sure they are following those definitions. States get very specific on what’s required, and often physicians are ignorant of what’s required when they take on practitioners.”

It is the responsibility of the healthcare organization to inform its physicians and care team of their responsibilities and limits, she added. Not only should scope-of-practice policies be on file and easily accessed, they should also be frequently “reviewed and signed by staff members.”

Furthermore, physicians need to become outspoken champions of patient safety both in word and deed, the article states, leading and inspiring employees in best practices and procedures. After all, in the world of team-based care, the physician is now the team leader. The onus is on the physician to unify the staff around the organization’s goals.

“What the physician really needs to do is be a good team leader,” Brightwell said. “The physician needs to lead the team in a way so it’s everyone’s responsibility to speak up about patient safety.”

As physicians who are looking for jobs, how can you emphasize in your next job interview your ability to lead a care team? Which leadership qualities do you have that set you apart from your colleagues?

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