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Orange County Digest

Countywide : Medical Assn. Fails to Back Computer System

February 14, 1986|Janet Zimmerman

The Orange County Medical Assn. has declined to endorse a computer service that alerts physicians to patients who have filed lawsuits in the last 10 years, according to Executive Director John Rette.

Rette said the service, endorsed last year by the Los Angeles County Medical Assn., was deemed "contrary to professional attitudes."

About 350 doctors in Orange and Los Angeles counties subscribe to Physician's Alert, a Chicago-based computer network that provides the number of lawsuits filed by patients since 1976 and information about each case.

Michael Eckstein, president of Physician's Alert, said the service is an attempt to eliminate some of the 70% to 80% of malpractice suits that he said are "frivolous and without merit" and to drive down "astronomical" malpractice fees paid by doctors, which drive up the overall cost of health care. The service costs $150 to join and $10 for each individual request for information.

Doctors may either refuse to treat a patient who has filed lawsuits or ignore the information, Eckstein said. The service is an attempt to "raise the professional consciousness" and encourage the doctor to take more detailed notes and charts and treat those patients prone to litigation more carefully, he said.

Rette said the association chose to ignore the service because "the potential negativism from the public sector" was not worth identifying the "handful of abusers."

"It's like looking for a needle in a haystack," Rette said. He recommended educating the public about the expense to society for unnecessary court cases.

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