A Medical Malpractice Solution that Works

Repost via ThePopTort

It’s been awhile since Captain Obvious made an appearance at ThePopTort. Unfortunately in the meantime (you may have noticed) Hotels.com got ahold of him. I think it’s time to pull him out of corporate advertising and back to the world of medical malpractice – at least for today.

According to a new study published in the May/June issue of the American Journal of Medical Quality, a state can actually reduce malpractice claims by – wait for it – improving the quality of care. Turns out you can reduce claims and lawsuits not only by stripping patients of their legal rights after they’ve already been hurt (as in Texas). You can accomplish the same thing by stopping the injuries and deaths in the first place, which they found examining a hospital system in Louisiana. Doesn’t that seem, I dunno obvious?  And better?  An article about the study says:

In Louisiana, the drop in malpractice claims corresponded with an increase in hospitals’ quality scores.… [T]he decrease in claims showed a statistically significant correlation with the increase in quality scores based on 22 Medicare measures….

The researchers’ findings suggest that hospitals can reduce liability with or without tort reform, says co-author Khaled J. Saleh, MD, chief of the hospital’s Division of Orthopedic Surgery and a study co-author.

“Clearly, the evidence shows that if you do high quality care, it is well received by patients and decreases your medicolegal costs,” he said in a telephone interview.

On the other hand, in Texas, the laws are now so Draconian that legitimate claims can no longer be brought. For more proof of that, check out this newbook, Tort Reform, Plaintiffs’ Lawyers, and Access to Justice by Stephen Daniels of the American Bar Foundation and Joanne Martin at the American Bar Endowment. They explain,

Reduce lawyers’ ability to use contingency fees as compensation, as tort reform inevitably does, and you reduce their economic incentive to do this work. … Drawing on over 20 years of research, extensive surveys and interviews, the authors explore the impact the tort reform movement in Texas has had on the ability of plaintiffs to obtain judgments–in short on private citizens’ meaningful access to the full power of the law.

I know I’ve heard this kind of thing about quality of care before. Oh yeah. In 2010, we wrote about a Rand study that found:

[There is a] highly significant correlation between the frequency of adverse events and malpractice claims: On average, a county that shows a decrease of 10 adverse events in a given year would also see a decrease of 3.7 malpractice claims.

[N]ew safety interventions potentially can have positive effects on the volume of malpractice litigation—a desirable result to seek out, even beyond the immediate impact of medical injuries avoided.

Wasn’t there something else? Oh yeah, in 2011, we wrote:

[T]hree physicians published an article about a comprehensive obstetric patient safety program that was implemented in the labor and delivery unit at NY Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.  They found that “that implementing a comprehensive obstetric patient safety program not only decreases severe adverse outcomes but can also have an immediate impact on compensation payments.”  For example, they reported that “2009 compensation payment total constituted a 99.1% drop from the average 2003-2006 payments (from $27,591,610 to $ 250,000). The average yearly compensation payment in the 3 years from 2007 to 2009 was $2,550,136 as compared with an average of $27,591,610 in the previous 4 years (2003-2006), a yearly saving of $25,041,475 (total: $75,124,424) during the last 3 years.”

How is it that some respected opinion leaders don’t seem to care about addressing the problem of deaths, injuries, claims and lawsuits with proven patient safety solutions, but instead would rather focus on reducing accountability and the legal rights of sick and injured patients after they’ve been hurt?  And by the way, then forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for their care and letting the med mal insurance industry make out like bandits.

It’s obvious, but it bears repeating: The best way to reduce malpractice litigation is not to take away the rights of injured patients, but to reduce the amount of malpractice.

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