Medical Errors Report #2

A Four-Year Solution Implementation Study

          Medical Errors Are Partly Responsible for Increase in Malpractice Insurance

With all the national headlines about the soaring costs of malpractice insurance premiums for physicians, only a few articles have tied medical errors to an increase in malpractice insurance. In September 22, 2003, Governor Holden of Missouri named a 17-member commission on patient safety to improve the quality of care by reducing medical errors and thereby reduce malpractice insurance premiums. In his statement, Governor Holden said, “The best outcome for all concerned is the prevention of medical errors that have devastating effects on the physical, emotional, professional and financial well-being of patients and families.”  He said that the members of this panel are very qualified professionals who can work to elevate the overall standard of medical care. Governor Holden cited a national study that indicates the majority of victims of medical malpractice do not file insurance claims or lawsuits and their needs have not been met. He expects his first report from the panel in 2004 as to what the state can do to improve the quality of care. 

 Physicians need to understand that an increase in medical errors increases malpractice insurance.  Although society does not want to accept this fact, we must think about the role of insurance companies. Their job is to insure against risks from accidents. When the probability of risk is increased, insurance companies start to get very nervous since they have to shed more dollars.   Consequently as medical errors increase, the insurance companies become more concerned. Although medical errors may not be the only factor, increased litigation due to medical errors is partially responsible for the increase in malpractice insurance premiums. If physicians work with hospitals to reduce medical errors, it may eventually lead to a reduction in malpractice premiums.

 According to John Monk’s article, “Medical Errors Kill, Injure S.C Patients” (the, April 02, 2003), lawsuits against doctors and hospitals are on the increase. Judges and jurors are very shocked at the alarming number of careless mistakes being made in the health-care industry leading to patient’s harm. In 2002, an Oconee County jury awarded an injured patient $15 million in punitive damages. The jury’s foreman stated that such an award is to send a message to state’s medical profession to crack down on incompetent doctors.