Current Weather
The Spy FM

Here Comes The Judge: A New Prescription For Medical Malpractice

Filed by KOSU News in Health.
November 22, 2011

The medical malpractice system is considered broken by many providers and politicians, a cause of runaway healthcare spending and an open door for plaintiffs to pursue frivolous lawsuits in the hope of a hefty payday.

The reality, of course, is more complicated than that. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examining malpractice claims between 1991 and 2005 found that 78 percent of them didn’t result in a payment to the patient.

Each year, physicians faced a 7.4 percent likelihood of facing a claim, but only 1.6 percent of claims received a payment, either through a settlement or jury award. Nonetheless, defending and insuring against these claims is costly for doctors.

There have been a variety of ideas about how best to reduce malpractice claims. One approach tried in New York that expedites settlements in medical malpractice cases is expanding, and many policy experts and participants in the process believe it has promise.

The intervention relies on judge-directed negotiation from the very beginning of malpractice case to help encourage resolution. Judge Douglas E. McKeon of the Supreme Court of Bronx County, who pioneered the program several years ago, says it can be useful for resolving many types of malpractice cases, including the “classic obstetrical case,” which is in his experience “the biggest driver of malpractice costs.”

The NEJM study looked at figures nationwide, examining which physician specialties had the greatest likelihood of being sued annually and the amounts of the awards. Neurosurgeons faced the biggest risk, with 19.1 percent facing a malpractice claim each year, followed by thoracic-cardiovascular surgeons (18.9%) and general surgeons (15.3%).

Of the 25 specialties studied, obstetricians were in seventh place among those most likely to be sued, with a little more than 10 percent facing claims annually. Psychiatrists, pediatricians and family physicians were the least likely to face a claim.

Payout amounts didn’t necessarily correlate with the risk of facing a malpractice claim. The average payout was $274,887 across all specialties. Pediatricians, however, had the highest average payouts at $520,923. Obstetricians had the distinction of accounting for the most awards that topped $1 million, however. Of 66 such awards, obstetricians accounted for 11 of them. [Copyright 2011 Kaiser Health News]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center