Liability risks not a barrier to health care collaboration

    OTTAWA, April 11 /CNW Telbec/ - Some health professionals and
organizations perceive legal liability risk to be a barrier to delivering
health services in collaborative teams, but a Conference Board of Canada
report suggests that liability is not the obstacle they say it is.
    "Based on this research, the possibility of a malpractice suit should not
be put forward as a reason to stop health professionals from collaborating,"
said Gabriela Prada, Principal Research Associate and author of Liability
Risks in Interdisciplinary Care: Thinking Outside the Box. "Although
collaborative practices are not risk-free for health practitioners, these can
be overcome with a number of straight-forward strategies, all of which
contribute to patient safety and quality of care."
    Governments and health professional groups alike are advocating the
benefits of collaborative care, where two or more professionals, such as
physicians and nurses, bring together their skills and knowledge to assist
patients and clients with their health needs.
    Some professionals remain hesitant to adopt team-based care. They express
concerns that these practices may increase their exposure to liability risks,
and that they may be held accountable for the negligent acts of their
colleagues. They also contend that courts may base their judgements on the
traditional models of health care delivery, instead of new collaborative
    This research, however, suggests that Canadian courts seem to have "moved
with the times"-they recognize that collaborative arrangements are often used
in patient care and that a team approach is desirable. Courts have always
assessed liability against individuals, even in cases involving health
professionals working as a team. Therefore, it is likely that courts will
continue to assess the standard of care expected of a health professional
(given their qualifications and experience) on an individual basis.
    Liability risks in collaborative practice can be overcome, or at least
controlled. Straight-forward solutions include: clear roles among team
members; strong communication among health practitioners and with patients and
their families; accurate and complete health records; and informed consent
that covers the details of the interdisciplinary care proposed to the patient.
    Recommendations in the report include:

    - Governments should work with professional associations to dispel health
      professionals' fear of liability in interdisciplinary care.
    - Health-care institutions need to ensure that:

          - Health-care professionals act according to their professional
            standards of practice and comply with their regulatory colleges.
          - Policies are in place to guide interdisciplinary care and to
            clarify roles, responsibilities and processes; in addition, that
            all health professionals are aware of these policies.
          - Organizations have malpractice liability insurance for both the
            organization and its employees.
          - All professionals have appropriate malpractice liability

    - Health professionals need to understand their scope of practice, their
      limitations as set out in provincial legislation, and the scopes of
      practice of the other health professionals in their team.
    - Health professionals need to comply with policies governing their
      interdisciplinary interactions.
    - Carriers of liability insurance and protection programs should consider
      exchanging data on malpractice liability cases.
    - Governments and (or) regulators should consider legislation to make
      liability insurance/protection mandatory for all active health
      professionals involved in interdisciplinary practices.

    The report is publicly available at It was funded by
Health Canada's Interprofessional Education for Collaborative Patient-Centered
Practice Pan-Canadian Health Human Resource Strategy.

For further information:

For further information: Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, (613) 526-3090
ext. 448,

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