Robert E. O'Connor, MD, MPH
Professor and Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Va.
It is imperative that providers are part of the solution for reducing healthcare costs but there is not an easy answer to it. It is such a complex matter to try to shift the paradigm of how services are paid for so that we can provide healthcare at the highest possible quality with the lowest possible costs. It is going to take a concerted effort between the healthcare providers and the insurers and regulators.
The first thing we have to look at is liability reform. A lot of defensive medicine is practiced at a cost of billions of dollars per year. If we were to protect providers who adhere to certain treatment protocols to a certain level of indemnity, while still allowing patients to recover damages when harmed, that would go a long way to reducing costs. It would also embed high-quality low-cost care into the system because providers would have guidelines to follow pretty much for every ailment. They'd know they would be protected from liability and they'd also follow proven and acceptable practices for everyone to provide reasonable healthcare.