A multifacited approach to improve patient safety, prevent medical errors and resolve the professional liability crisis

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Apr;194(4):1160-5; discussion 1165-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2005.12.024.


The current professional liability crisis is the third in the last 30 years. Similarities of the 3 crises are the rising cost of professional liability insurance and a diminishing number of sources available to purchase coverage. Proposed tort reform with caps on noneconomic damages and attorney contingency fees is a back end approach and will do little to solve this crisis or prevent future ones. The current situation can only be solved by placing an increased emphasis on improving patient safety and elimination of all preventable medical errors. A national electronic medical record must be developed and rapid response teams need to be available in most hospitals. The protective devices of privileged communication and peer review are counterproductive and must be eliminated. Full and prompt disclosure of any medical error or injury needs to be made. Physicians must be taught proper communication skills and the importance of teamwork. Providers with frequent patient, nursing or medical staff complaints must be critically reviewed. The present system of risk management needs to move from a reactive position to a role of being proactive for both patient and physician. Claims management should offer the patient early compensation when appropriate and pursue a vigorous defense when medical care is adequate. Experts should be identified who will render fair, unbiased reviews of medical care with all of their findings being disclosed. Similar experts need to devise clear, concise, evidenced based standards of care for common medical conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Insurance, Liability
  • Liability, Legal*
  • Malpractice
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Risk Management
  • Safety / standards*
  • United States