The president of the Iowa Medical Society is in Chicago for the annual meeting of delegates of the American Medical Association. While physicians consider a long list of suggestions for their policies and positions, Iowa doctor Charles Helms practices medicine at University Hospitals in Iowa City. They range in topic from public-health issues to dollars-and-sense concerns of doctors who practice medicine, what he calls a “typical smorgasbord” of ideas for the delegates to deliberate. Doctor Helms says about 250 resolutions have been submitted by the state associations and specialized societies that are members of the A-M-A. One resolution withdrawn by its sponsor would have let doctors refuse care to lawyers who sue doctors. Iowa’s Doctor Helms says a couple interesting resolutions deal with public health.One’s an “interesting” resolution he says would require an “R” rating for any movie where people smoke tobacco, saying people should recognize that smoking is dangerous to their health. Many of the other resolutions revolve around what the doctor calls the “epidemic of obesity” among people in the United States. The Iowa M-D says doctors are talking about legislation that would set up a confidential reporting system to organize data on medical mistakes, instead of putting every doctor at risk of heavy penalties for admitting an error as he says the current system does. What we call “blame and shame,” oriented to target individuals who have accidents or make a mistake. Helms says as long as it isn’t a true “tort,” the legal term for something done maliciously, he says finding out how such errors happen can improve the system to reduce the likelihood of such a mistake happening in the first place. As an example, the doctor says he could call up and tell of a mistake he’d made, and by allowing it to become part of the patient-safety research, could help make all patients safer including his own. Iowa’s physicians face a particular problem in the skyrocketing cost of the malpractice insurance they must have. Premiums for malpractice coverage are forcing doctors to restrict service they deliver, make them refer complex cases to other doctors, and mean there are fewer docs who handle the complex cases in hometowns, because of the liability issues. In Iowa, Helms says that means fewer doctors choosing to deliver babies, and serious concerns for the trauma centers that handle badly-injured patients. The convention continues through Wednesday afternoon.
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