The best way to reduce malpractice suits? Reduce malpractice
Friday, April 16, 2010
Patient advocates have long argued that the best way to reduce the number of medical negligence lawsuits is not by infringing on the rights of victims to seek compensation for their injuries through the civil justice system but by reducing the number of victims. A new report from RAND Corporation, the non-profit research group, set out to determine if there is a relationship between improvements in patient safety and the amount of malpractice suits.
It turns out there is. RAND’s report “investigates the relationship between safety outcomes in hospitals and malpractice claiming against providers, using data for California hospitals and insurers from 2001 through 2005,” in the words of the researchers. They analyzed more than 365,000 “in-hospital events and complications with potential to harm patients” over the five-year period from such things as post-surgical problems to infections originating in a hospital. The researchers also examined a database of about 27,000 claims from four of the largest medical malpractice insurers in the state.
The upshot: A correlation between better health care and fewer malpractice lawsuits. The authos say that a county with a decrease of 10 adverse events would see 3.7 fewer malpractice claims. Similary, an increase of 10 events would suggest 3.7 more malpractice claims.
Rand researchers say their study is the first to suggest that efforts to improve patient safety could contribute to fewer medical malpractice claims.
The report concludes by yanking the bandage off wounds left by the state’s long-running tort wars:
“Arguments about the merits of statutory tort intervention will surely continue in the future,
but to the extent that improved safety performance can be shown to have a demonstrable
impact on malpractice claims, that offers another focal point for policymakers in seeking to
address the malpractice crisis. Based on the results of the current study, we would suggest that that focal point may be more immediately relevant than has previously been recognized.”
That’s a nice, academic way of saying something simple: Fewer medical errors, fewer lawsuits.