The best way to reduce medical malpractice claims is not by denying a victim’s access to the civil justice system or by capping malpractice damages. Those misguided policies place the burden on the backs of the harmed patients and do not actually result in less instances of malpractice.
The best strategy to reduce malpractice claims is by reducing preventable medical errors. In fact, preventable errors are attributable to a startling number of serious injuries and deaths in hospitals. For example, over 440,000 people die every year from preventable medical mistakes, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
Obviously, doctors are not perfect and human error is inevitable. Nevertheless, a great number of these errors could be prevented by employing simple protocols and routine checks by staff.
A recent report by Public Citizen titled, “Solutions in Sight: Safety Initiatives Have Dramatically Reduced Harms During Childbirth But Are Unevenly Implemented,” about obstetric safety demonstrates it is indeed achievable. Obstetrics is a particularly important area in the medical malpractice liability debate, because it can have such tragic impacts on both birthing mothers as well as newborns. Therefore this area is responsible for a large proportion of the largest malpractice liability awards.
It comes down to understanding – the best practices and standardized care protocols to achieve improvements are straightforward. It is not about employing innovative or novel techniques, it is about eliminating preventable errors.
Doctors, hospitals and insurers have long lobbied to take away the legal rights of those that suffer injury due to malpractice. In many states, malpractice victims find themselves re-victimized, but this time by legal rules preventing them from receiving the compensation they rightfully deserve. However, the insurance-medical-industrial complex is not satisfied and aims to establish federal rules to further curtail victim rights.
Rather than stripping patient rights, the healthcare industry needs to focus more attention on eliminating preventable errors and improving patient care. Abundant data exists to support the notion that extraordinary improvements can be realized, if healthcare providers put forth the effort to do so.