Cover: Is Better Patient Safety Associated with Less Malpractice Activity?

Is Better Patient Safety Associated with Less Malpractice Activity?

Evidence from California

Published Mar 26, 2010

by Michael D. Greenberg, Amelia Haviland, J. Scott Ashwood, Regan Main

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In principle, efforts to improve patient safety, if they are successful, should lead to reductions in claims of medical malpractice. In practice, however, this has not yet been systematically demonstrated to be so. The authors of this report examined the relationship between safety outcomes in hospitals and malpractice claiming against providers, using administrative data and measures for California from 2001 to 2005. They found that decreases in the county-level frequency of adverse safety outcomes were positively and significantly associated with decreases in the volume of malpractice claims, as captured by records from four of the largest malpractice insurers in the state. This result suggests that policy options that improve patient safety may offer a new avenue for reducing malpractice pressure on physicians, at the same time that they improve clinical outcomes.

The research described in this report was conducted under the auspices of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) and funded by pooled contributions from the ICJ and from several insurance companies, individuals, and nonprofit groups with interests in patient safety and medical malpractice policy.

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