There is no question that medical liability is burdensome for medical professionals, organizations of all sizes and the malpractice insurance industry. Recent findings in a Psychiatry Advisor study of over 40,000 physicians reported that roughly 25% of U.S. physicians face a suit annually. The surgical specialties and OB/GYN areas seem to have the highest risk for claims, with likelihoods of 80% and 74%; comparatively, those practicing internal medicine experienced reduced rates near 55%.
In 2017, the Journal of Patient Safety reported that hospital-based medical mistakes result in the range of 200,000 to 400,000 deaths each year. A recent John Hopkins report estimated this figure to be closer to 250,000 deaths which could have been prevented each year. Despite efforts to reduce the volume of medical malpractice related costs, overall expenses still exceed $55 billion.
In 2015, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report estimated that approximately 44% of hospital-based deaths could have been prevented. Medicare and the US Department of Health and Human Services have offered financial incentives for better safety practices which they believe have reduced the percentage by roughly 50%. This equates to saving about 125,000 lives overall.
Federally based initiatives have aggressively been seeking to reduce the costs, particularly to insurance providers. The Affordable Care Act sought to encourage implementing some limitations on awards for damages. Most efforts sought to create caps of between $250,000 and $500,000 for each action. Additional provisions were suggested relating to claims involving joint liability. These shared liability laws related to cases involving multiple defendants, where liability may be assessed on a varying percentage basis.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has expressed concern over the costs of non-compliance potentially rivaling the costs of malpractice. More hospitals have significantly placed more emphasis on oversight from hospital compliance officers to encourage compliance in procedures, documentation, and safety. Some of their other interesting findings include:
- Physicians who reach 45 years of age have a 36% likelihood of having had a claim of medical malpractice
- Surgeons who reached 45 have an 88% likelihood of having a malpractice claim
- By the age of 65 these statistics rise to 75% for physicians and 99% for surgeons.
- Their estimates indicate that about 40% of physicians specifically implement limitations within their practices exclusively for the purpose of limiting medical liability cases