Should doctors who follow evidence-based guidelines be offered liability protection?

As we know, the American Medical Association was part of the consortium that offered to voluntarily rein in health care spending over the next decade.

I’ll leave it to the health policy blogs to discuss the implications, but of course, everyone is asking, “What’s in it for me?”

The AMA tipped their hand a bit in a recent WSJ Health Blog post. It’s well known that President Obama, along with the influential former director of the Congressional Budget Office, Peter Orszag, place significant weight on the Dartmouth Atlas data decrying the variations in care across the country.

So, if doctors can follow strict, evidence-based guidelines, should they be sued if they stay on track? The AMA suggests not: “[AMA President-elect James] Rohack said that following evidence-based guidelines, such as those created by medical specialty societies, could be a way to reduce those variations. But some docs may worry that they could be sued for skipping a test “” even if the guidelines recommend against the test. Giving some liability protection to doctors who follow the guidelines might change that . . . helping to reduce the number of tests and slow the growth of health costs.”

So, they are acknowledging and embracing the data that is very influential in the White House, as well as in progressive health policy circles, and parlaying that into reasonable malpractice reform.

I think it’s a smart play.