Policy Experts Propose QIO Role in Malpractice Reform

The statutory authority QIOs have to promote local practice guidelines-while never used-could nonetheless prove useful in the effort to provide malpractice “safe harbors” for physicians, according to White Paper just published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute. While not a panacea, the authors argue that evidence-based practice guidelines could be useful in the effort to reduce litigation and thereby control healthcare costs, particularly if accompanied by payment reforms and/or other structural changes to the healthcare system. The authors cite provisions in 1972 Professional Standards Review Organization (PSRO) legislation that would have permitted those organizations to set local practice standards that would protect physicians who adhere to them from future malpractice lawsuits. Claiming such authority remains in effect for the QIO successor organizations, the authors suggest such a mechanism is “a tactic worth another look.” A similar argument was made by JF Blumstein in a 2006 article in the Vanderbilt Law Review and by Former Obama Administration Budget Director Peter Orszag in The New York Times in the fall of 2010. For a copy of The Value of Clinical Practice Guidelines as Malpractice ‘Safe Harbors’ (April 2012) by Randall R. Bovbjerg and Robert A. Berenson, visit the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website at www.rwjf.org.