Background: Medical liability reform is viewed by many physician groups as a means of reducing medical malpractice litigation and lowering healthcare costs. However, alternative approaches such as closed medical negligence claims data may also achieve these goals.
Questions/purposes: We asked whether information gleaned from closed claims related to medical negligence could promote patient safety and reduce costs related to medical liability. Specifically, we investigated whether physician groups have examined such data to identify error patterns and to then institute specific patient treatment protocols.
Methods: We searched for medical societies that have systematically examined closed medical negligence claims in their specialty to develop specific standards of physician conduct. We then searched the medical literature for published evidence of the efficacy, if any, related to the patient safety measures thus developed.
Results: Anesthesia and obstetric physician societies have successfully targeted costs and related concerns arising from medical malpractice lawsuits by using data from closed claims to develop patient safety and treatment guidelines. In both specialties, after institution of safety measures derived from closed medical negligence claims, the incidence and costs related to medical malpractice decreased and physician satisfaction improved.
Conclusions: Tort reform, in the form of legislatively prescribed limits on damages arising from lawsuits, is not the only means of addressing the incidence and costs related to medical malpractice litigation. As the experience of anesthesia and obstetric physicians has demonstrated, safety guidelines derived from analyzing past medical malpractice litigation can achieve the same goals while also promoting patient safety.