Some states use physicians' histories of medical malpractice payments to try to reduce the incidence of medical malpractice (i.e., negligent medical care that causes injury). At least two types of policies fall into this category: using payment histories to decide which physicians will be investigated, and possibly sanctioned, by the state medical board; and making information about individual physicians and their payment histories available to the public. This study was the first to offer quantitative analysis of the potential effects of these policies. It found that neither policy would substantially reduce the incidence of malpractice. This is because the medical malpractice system does not accurately identify and extract compensation from physicians who injure their patients through negligence.
Over four years, doctors who make no malpractice payments cause almost three-quarters of negligent injuries; this greatly limits the potential of policies focused on physicians making payments.
There is only about a 37-percent chance that a medical episode leading to a payment actually involved medical malpractice.
Neither of the policy options assessed would be effective in reducing negligent injury.
At best, targeting those who make payments would reduce the incidence of medical malpractice by less than 0.25 percent.
Providing consumer information about physicians' medical malpractice payments would have a trivial effect on reducing negligent injuries.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research brief series. RAND research briefs present policy-oriented summaries of individual published, peer-reviewed documents or of a body of published work.
Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.
Adams, John L. and Steven Garber, Do Policies That Target Physicians Who Make Medical Malpractice Payments Reduce Negligent Injuries?. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2007. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9280.html.
Adams, John L. and Steven Garber, Do Policies That Target Physicians Who Make Medical Malpractice Payments Reduce Negligent Injuries?, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, RB-9280, 2007. As of September 23, 2021: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9280.html