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Is it possible for standards of care to change?

There has always been a certain level of geographic variation in medical practice. That was perhaps a lot truer in decades past when there were no generally accepted standards of evidence-based practice. Back then, the standard of care was whatever was practiced at the nearest teaching hospital.

These days, there may still be a bias in practice in a given region based on the preeminence of a local educational institution or particular teacher. But people are a lot more mobile today and the medical profession has developed a greater level of uniformity through the use of board certifications and national examinations.

Such developments have been critically important, too, in fostering greater accountability. With the advent of broad common standards of care it has become possible to more easily determine when a care provider’s practices stray beyond what most in the medical community would expect. That is typically the basis upon which a successful claim of medical malpractice is made.

While standards offer a benchmark with which medical error can be gauged, that doesn’t mean they are static. They can change. As doctors test out their own theories of treatment and clinical studies are performed and reviewed, the specialty groups that set the standards make modifications. But it typically requires solid research data.

One recent study has some wondering whether standards of care in the delivery of newborns might be about due for a change. As many are likely aware, errors in delivery happen and can result in a wide array of birth injuries that affect a child and his or her family for life.

This new study suggests that by simply waiting several minutes longer after birth to cut a newborn’s umbilical cord, it could boost the child’s social and fine motor skills development several years later. In our next post we’ll look into the study more deeply.

Source: FindLaw, “Standard of Care: Treatment and Surgery,” accessed June 2, 2015