The Affordable Care Act and malpractice

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The Affordable Care Act and malpractice
Health care reform will change the malpractice landscape

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to be fully implemented in 2014 and help more than 30 million additional Americans secure health insurance, according to Forbes. Health care reform could also have a big impact on the malpractice landscape, which might increase professional liability risk for doctors, nurses and other medical workers. 

Accordingly, these health care industry members would be wise to prepare for the heightened risk of lawsuits by being cognizant of the following changes.

- More patients: One of the biggest impacts of the ACA is that health care professionals will see more patients checking into facilities, according to Medscape. This wouldn't be a major problem if there was a surplus of doctors, but that isn't the case in the United States. Many parts of the country are currently experiencing a shortage of medical professionals, so the influx of new patients could put a tremendous amount of pressure on these people, and lead to heightened liability risk. The simple fact that more patients are being seen on a daily basis could make it more likely for a doctor to commit an error that may result in a lawsuit. 

- Nurse practitioners, other professionals could have more responsibility: The high number of additional patients isn't only going to impact primary care physicians. These professionals likely won't be able to do everything, so more responsibility could be put on nurse practitioners, physician assistants and others. Without as much experience as doctors, the risk for errors that lead to a malpractice claim could increase. For example, the inexperience of a nurse practitioner could lead to them missing out on a key symptom of a condition that a doctor likely would have noticed. 

- Data input: Part of the ACA will require hospitals and other facilities to transfer old patient records to new digital forms. As a result, there could be a higher risk of data input errors that could lead to significant medical mistakes. For instance, if a health care professional inputs the wrong medication on a record, that patient could experience damaging side effects by not receiving the right pills to treat his or her condition. As the transition from paper to digital records is completed, it could be a good idea for hospitals to hold training sessions to inform professionals how to input data without error. 

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