The Dangers of 'Practice Drift'

In today's copy of the USA Today, there is a very interesting article on the risks associated with a new phenomenon called “practice drift.” This is when doctors practice outside of the areas in which they are trained and board certified.

The majority of practice drifting occurs in outpatient surgery facilities. As the article highlights, this brings additional risks for medical errors because there is currently insufficient oversight of these facilities and often they lack the necessary emergency equipment needed to handle complications:

"As cosmetic surgery surges in popularity and insurance payouts to doctors decline, the temptation for physicians to branch into new, potentially risky procedures has never been greater, regulators, doctors and plaintiff lawyers say.  Insurance companies and hospitals typically prohibit doctors from practicing outside of their specialties, but office surgery facilities are unregulated in more than half of states."

Included in the article is Leslie Fishbein's story.  Leslie was the President of Kacey Fine Furniture, a large company with multiple furniture stores in Denver, Colorado. In 2008, Leslie died from medical malpractice after receiving thirty trigger point injections of marcaine (a powerful anesthetic) in five minutes. The Defendant, Dr. Daniel Brookoff, was trained as a cancer doctor but decided to enter the filed of pain management without any formal training.

AAJ member Jim Leventhal (Denver, CO) handled Leslie's case and was quoted in the article on the risks of practice drift:

"There are so many areas of medicine that are considered to be lucrative, that it's attracted physicians to do those procedures who really aren't trained to do them," says Jim Leventhal, a Denver plaintiff attorney who chairs the American Association for Justice's professional negligence section. "Laws need to be passed which regulate outpatient procedures requiring appropriate training to perform the procedure and appropriate training and equipment to respond immediately should a patient need emergency care."

You can read the whole article here.

To learn more about the problem of medical malpractice, the importance of preventing medical errors, and improving patient safety, check out AAJ's primer here.