Capitol Hill Briefing: Evidence-Based Medicine Can Improve Patient Outcomes, Cut Defensive Medicine Costs

U. S. Representative Ami Bera (D-CA)
U. S. Representative Ami Bera (D-CA) said, at a briefing sponsored by the Healthcare Leadership Council, that patients will benefit if physicians have incentives to use clinical practice guidelines.

At a July 17 briefing on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC), experts called for health policy reforms that would incentivize medical professionals to adhere to evidence-based clinical guidelines, thus improving patient care and reducing the costs associated with defensive medicine to avoid lawsuits.

U.S. Representative Ami Bera (D-CA), who is also a physician, is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act, legislation that would provide medical liability ‘safe harbors’ for healthcare providers who utilize established clinical guidelines in treating patients. Bera said, if medical professionals practice evidence-based medicine, there should be a higher threshold before they can be sued.  He said a current problem in our healthcare system involves geographic variations in care.  These could be successfully addressed if physicians had incentives to use the same clinical guidelines.

David Kendall, Senior Fellow for Health and Fiscal Policy at the Third Way think tank, said our current medical liability system “does not do a good job distinguishing between bad care and bad luck.” He said evidence has shown that clinical practice guidelines lead to improved health outcomes for patients but a significant number of physicians don’t use them.  There needs to be incentives, he said, such as “safe harbor” protections to encourage physician adherence.

And Healthcare Leadership Council president Mary R. Grealy emphasized that we need to replace the culture of blame in healthcare with a culture of safety. She said research has shown that insufficient use of clinical practice guidelines is leading, in some regions of the country, to an increased rate of hospitalizations and longer average lengths of stay in hospital beds.  HLC is a supporter of the Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act.