Regular readers of my blog have seen several posts that draw lessons for the legal market from developments in health care. I have previously suggested that lawyers adopt “best practices checklists” (as the ICU at Johns Hopkins has) and that they demonstrate that their tried and true practice techniques are actually effective (as doctors are increasingly doing with “evidence based medicine,” which is based on solid, clinical empirical evidence).

On Tuesday, October 21, 2003, the Wall Street Journal carried a fascinating article called The Real Drug Problem: Forgetting to Take Them. Only about 50% of people take prescription drugs as instructed, a problem that cuts across income and education lines. Compliance can be low even where lives are literally at stake.

Various efforts are underway to understand and correct this problem. One caught my eye as having potential lessons, this time primarily for in-house counsel. I was struck by what Kaiser Permanente is doing. Its pharmacy analyzes refills of asthma drugs. “It then alerts doctors when patients appear to be refilling medication that gives immediate relief to acute attacks more often than they are refilling the long-term medication to prevent attacks in the first place.”

This prompted me to wonder if there are any law departments that are able to track the type of advice they give – long-term or preventive versus acute or crisis – and draw inferences from the mix as to how business managers are behaving. For example, in spite of compliance training programs, it may be that some managers are regularly getting into avoidable legal problems. Undoubtedly, inhouse counsel have a decent gut feel for this, but it would be interesting to see if one could sufficiently fine tune a matter management system to achieve the same effect in law as Kaiser Permanente is doing with drugs and asthma treatment.