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Better patient safety linked to fewer medical malpractice claims in California
Date:4/14/2010

Reducing the number of preventable patient injuries in California hospitals from 2001 to 2005 was associated with a corresponding drop in malpractice claims against physicians, according to a study issued today by the RAND Corporation.

Researchers studied both medical malpractice claims and adverse events such as post-surgical infections across California counties and found that changes in the frequency of adverse events were strongly correlated with corresponding changes in the volume of medical malpractice claims.

"These findings suggest that putting a greater focus on improving safety performance in health care settings could benefit medical providers as well as patients," said Michael Greenberg, the study's lead author and a behavioral scientist with RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

The link between safety performance among health care providers and malpractice suits has been of central interest to policymakers in the ongoing debate over health care reform. The RAND study is the first to demonstrate a link between improving performance on 20 well-established indicators of medical safety outcomes and lower medical malpractice claims.

Researchers analyzed information for approximately 365,000 adverse safety events, such as post-surgical problems and hospital-acquired infections, and for approximately 27,000 malpractice claims, all of which occurred during 2001-2005. The researchers found considerable variation among California's counties, in both the frequency of adverse events and of malpractice claims.

More important, the study found a significant connection between the annual frequency of adverse events in each county, and the number of malpractice claims made. For example, under the model created by researchers, a county that experienced 10 fewer safety events in a given year would also expect to see a reduction of 3.7 malpractice claims during the same year, said study co-author Amelia Haviland,
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Contact: Lisa Sodders
lsodders@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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