Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

‘Catastrophic’ malpractice payouts add little to health care’s rising costs

Date:
April 30, 2013
Source:
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Summary:
Efforts to lower health care costs in the United States have focused at times on demands to reform the medical malpractice system, with some researchers asserting that large, headline-grabbing and “frivolous” payouts are among the heaviest drains on health care resources. But a new review of malpractice claims suggests such assertions are wrong.

Efforts to lower health care costs in the United States have focused at times on demands to reform the medical malpractice system, with some researchers asserting that large, headline-grabbing and "frivolous" payouts are among the heaviest drains on health care resources. But a new review of malpractice claims by Johns Hopkins researchers suggests such assertions are wrong.

In their review of malpractice payouts over $1 million, the researchers say those payments added up to roughly $1.4 billion a year, making up far less than 1 percent of national medical expenditures in the United States.

"The notion that frivolous claims are routinely resulting in $100 million payouts is not true," says study leader Marty Makary, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of surgery and health policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The real problem is that far too many tests and procedures are being performed in the name of defensive medicine, as physicians fear they could be sued if they don't order them. That costs upwards of $60 billion a year. It is not the payouts that are bankrupting the system -- it's the fear of them."

Called catastrophic claims, payouts over $1 million are more likely to occur when a patient who is killed or injured is under the age of 1; develops quadriplegia, brain damage or the need for lifelong care as a result of the malpractice; or when the claim results from a problem related to anesthesia, the researchers found in a study published online in the Journal for Healthcare Quality.

Makary and his colleagues reviewed nationwide medical malpractice claims using the National Practitioner Data Bank, an electronic repository of all malpractice settlements or judgments since 1986. They looked at data from 2004 to 2010, choosing a 2004 start date because that is when data regarding the age and gender of patients and severity of injury became available for the first time. The information includes only payments made on behalf of individual providers, not hospitals or other corporations, meaning the number of payouts may be underestimated by 20 percent, Makary says.

Over that period, 77,621 claims were paid, and catastrophic claims made up 7.9 percent (6,130 payouts). The seven-year nationwide total of catastrophic payouts was $9.8 billion, representing 36.2 percent of the $27 billion worth of total claims paid over that time period.

The most common allegations associated with a catastrophic payout were diagnosis-related (34.2 percent), obstetrics-related (21.8 percent) and surgery-related (17.8 percent) events. Errors in diagnosis showed twice the odds of a catastrophic payout compared with equipment- or product-related errors and were associated with a roughly $83,000 larger payment.

The age of the physician was unrelated to the likelihood of a claim, suggesting inexperience is not necessarily a factor. But 37 percent of catastrophic payouts involved a physician with a previous claim in the database. The largest payout in the study was $31 million.

Makary says the data suggest that the focus of legal reform efforts should be on doctor protections aimed at reducing defensive medicine rather than the creation of malpractice caps.

He says his findings argue for more research to determine what interventions might prevent the type of errors that result in catastrophic payouts, with the overall goal of improving patient safety and reducing costs at the same time.

But real cost reductions, he says, will come from reducing the overuse of diagnostic tests and procedures.

Other Johns Hopkins researchers who contributed to this study include Paul J. Bixenstine, B.A.; Andrew D. Shore, Ph.D.; and Julie A. Freischlag, M.D.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Paul J. Bixenstine, Andrew D. Shore, Winta T. Mehtsun, Andrew M. Ibrahim, Julie A. Freischlag, Martin A. Makary. Catastrophic Medical Malpractice Payouts in the United States. Journal for Healthcare Quality, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/jhq.12011

Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins Medicine. "‘Catastrophic’ malpractice payouts add little to health care’s rising costs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130430142008.htm>.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2013, April 30). ‘Catastrophic’ malpractice payouts add little to health care’s rising costs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130430142008.htm
Johns Hopkins Medicine. "‘Catastrophic’ malpractice payouts add little to health care’s rising costs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130430142008.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Aimed at reducing sexual assaults on college campuses, California has adopted a new law changing the standard of consent for sexual activity. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Researchers looked at 1,500 blood samples and determined people who developed pancreatic cancer had more branched chain amino acids. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins