Decline in Malpractice Payments, Litigation Not Linked to Improved Patient Safety, Report Finds

July 27, 2012 | Physician Practice News

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While medical malpractice payments reached a record low in 2011 and continue to fall, declines in malpractice costs have not translated into lower healthcare costs or improved patient care, states a July 2012 report from Public Citizen, a nonprofit organization promoting consumer interests in the marketplace. The report found that both the number of malpractice payments and the inflation-adjusted value of payments made on behalf of physicians reached their lowest levels recorded since the creation of the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) in 1990. Furthermore, malpractice awards are increasingly being paid to the victims of serious harms rather than patients with “frivolous claims.” In 2011, the majority (80%) of money paid in medical malpractice awards compensated patients and their family members for patient death and other harms defined by NPDB as significant permanent injuries; major permanent injuries; or quadriplegia, brain damage, or injuries requiring lifelong care. The report says that the value of medical malpractice payments dropped by 11.9% between 2000 and 2011, while healthcare spending nearly doubled.

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