Do Policies That Target Physicians Who Make Medical Malpractice Payments Reduce Negligent Injuries?

Fact Sheet
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Outcomes of Medical Interactions
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NOTE: Other outcomes include good medical outcomes, bad outcomes that are not attributable to medical care, and injuries that are so minor that filing a claim is not economical.

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 fact sheet is based on work sponsored by the RAND Institute for Civil Justice and documented in “Reducing Medical Malpractice by Targeting Physicians Making Medical Malpractice Payments,” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, March 2007, pp. 185-222, by John L. Adams and Steven Garber.

This product 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.

Copyright © 2007 RAND Corporation

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RB-9280 (2007)