Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Malpractice & volume business

I was retained to handle a malpractice case lately. That case, along with some of my other cases and other things in life prompted the following thoughts about volume businesses.

It seems like certain areas of life have become volume businesses. Walmart is the obvious example. You can't get any service in the store. The prices are low, but the shopping experience stinks and product quality is not a priority.

You see this in law - firms that represent banks in foreclosures are volume businesses. You usually can't get a lawyer on the phone and if you have a genuine problem, no one there has any idea what to do about it. The banks themselves long ago became volume businesses. Bankruptcy lawyers seem to be a volume business also. Same for personal injury when it comes to the heavy TV advertisers.

One of my clients experienced this in the health care field (I'm being vague to avoid any hint of who my client is - though it doesn't matter now and probably no one cares). Her employer focused on selling the professionals on the money they would make, and the patients on low cost. She got in and found out that she was unable to provide any kind of quality service because the employer had ramped up the number of patients to an intolerable level.

My new malpractice case seems to be one where the offending professional didn't take the time to discuss the process with the patient, and ignored the patient after things went downhill. One recent blog post brought up an article in the Wall Street Journal I read not too long ago, about how some hospitals are up on the latest in stroke treatment and others aren't.

I find myself striving to stay out of the world of volume business. I stick to areas of practice that aren't like that. As I think about it now, my days in insurance defense were like this, as the insurance company pressured us and outside firms to squeeze costs. Wasn't too bad where I was but I've heard some horror stories since from other places.

This is certainly a challenge as a lawyer, and it seems like a larger problem for society. We all want things to cost less, but we often end up paying a different kind of price for it.

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