Patient Safety Reform Better For Patients And Doctors

April 21, 2010

RAND Study – Patient Safety Also Benefits Doctors

That common sense conclusion is the recent finding from the RAND Corporation, a think tank and research center.

In a recent study, the group finds that when patient injuries were reduced in California hospitals there were fewer medical malpractice claims.

The cries for tort reform to limit a patients’ ability to bring an injury claim, frequently fail to look at the impact an improved patient safety picture can have on reducing malpractice claims against doctors.

The research group analyzed medical malpractice insurance records in California from 2001 to 2005. California was chosen because it initiated medical malpractice reform 35 years ago and any fallout would not be recent. It also has a large and diverse population.

Researchers studied medical malpractice claims – that is claims by patients who had received poor care such as contracting a hospital infection, having a surgical instrument left in them, and receiving the wrong medication, among other preventable adverse events.

Using the records from four of the largest medical malpractice insurers in the state, researchers analyzed 365,000 adverse safety events and 27,000 malpractice claims that followed.

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Frivolous Defense

April 14, 2010

Tort Reform/Frivolous Defense

With the near omnipresent discussion about Tort Reform, one can’t help but begin to think that there are too many “frivolous lawsuits” being filed, and even won. Just about the only law suits the news reports on are the ones where someone got a ridiculous verdict for a tiny accident. Are these true? Maybe some of them. But, by and large, they are exaggerated or have missing facts that the news didn’t bother to include. Most people do not realize that there are methods in place to keep truly frivolous suits from being filed – and certainly from going to a jury and being won. But that’s another blog for another time.

What is not discussed very often is frivolous defenses. For example, when a doctor does an operation on the wrong leg and gets sued, then files a defense saying that somehow his treatment was not outside the standard of care. As if it could ever be reasonable to do surgery on the left leg when the order clearly states the right leg is the injured one. But this happens much more often than one might realize. And when it does, it costs everyone a lot of money. Because the doctor has filed a defense, the lawyers and parties for both sides must go through hours and hours of discovery, hire experts (often costing the injured plaintiff thousands of dollars) and prepare to go to trial only to have the doctor settle at the last minute when he should have offered the settlement before the Plaintiff even had to hire a lawyer.

But the media does not like to talk about this aspect of lawsuits. After all, Plaintiffs are the ones starting the suit. And no one likes overly litigious people. But our legal system is set up so that people can have some recourse when they are wronged. Money is the only thing an injured person can get to “make up for” the damage. Unfortunately, even the highest court in the world could not give someone a new leg. And it is regrettable when a plaintiff must spend years in litigation and thousands of dollars because of a frivolous defense.

Charity McKenzie

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Irational Ideas!

April 12, 2010

Tort reform idea is in whose interests?

I have been reading that many who oppose the health care reform law do so because it takes power away from ordinary citizens and places decisions in the hands of government bureaucrats. Many of those people say that what is really needed is tort reform to stop large malpractice awards.

But advocating tort reform is saying that a jury of 12 ordinary people cannot be trusted to make a reasonable decision in a malpractice case, so government bureaucrats need to step in to correct them.

Let me get this straight. Government should not look over the shoulder of insurance companies (who have a vested interest in rates) but government should look over the shoulder of ordinary people (who have no vested interest in the outcome of a malpractice case)? Makes my head spin.

Rex Clemmensen

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More Study Proving That Damage Cap Has No Effect On Insurance Premiums

April 2, 2010

SSRN-Damages Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases by Leonard Nelson, Michael Morrisey, Meredith Kilgore

This article reviews the empirical literature on the effects of damages caps and concludes that the better-designed studies show that damages caps reduce liability insurance premiums. The effects of damages caps on defensive medicine, physicians location decisions, and the cost of health care to consumers are less clear. The only study of whether consumers benefit from lower health insurance premiums as a result of damages caps found no impact. Some state courts have based decisions declaring damages caps legislation unconstitutional on the lack of evidence of their effectiveness, thereby ignoring the findings of conflicting research studies or discounting their relevance. Although courts should be cautious in rejecting empirical evidence that caps are effective, legislators should consider whether they benefit consumers enough to justify limiting tort recoveries for those most seriously injured by malpractice.

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