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RAND Study - Patient Safety Also Benefits Doctors

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 4:22 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Tort Reform, Patient Safety, RAND,

When you improve patient safety systemically, the number of med mal claims declines, says a RAND study.

Safety for Patients and Doctors


IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ National N aval Center hospital, Bethesda/ operation on a young patient/ U.S. Navy

Emphasizing patient safety benefits both doctors and patients.

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.


There was a correlation between the frequency of adverse events and the number of medical malpractice claims, and the reverse was also true. In a county where there were 10 fewer safety problems, there were 3.7 fewer malpractice claims.

“Such a link suggests that providers could improve their own malpractice risk by making health care safety; that the interest of patients and providers are potentially well aligned when risk is addressed in this way; and that policymakers might enact a new set of tools for reducing malpractice risk, focused on facilitating new patient safety interventions, quality-improvement activities, root-cause analysis efforts, and the like,” says a summary of the report.

This result suggests improved patient safety policies may be the way for doctors to take the pressure off from the threat of medical malpractice claims.

Estimates are anywhere from 98,000 to 200,000 patient deaths occur every year because of largely preventable medical errors. Some of those outcomes result in wrongful death claims against the doctor and hospital.

The RAND Institute for Civil Justice conducted the study which is funded by insurance companies, nonprofit groups, and individuals. The findings are used by lawmakers and research groups interested in patient safety and the issue of tort reform. #

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