This month, the National Practitioner Data Bank, an organization that tracks and reports medical malpractice and “certain adverse actions related to health care practitioners, entities, providers, and suppliers,” released a report on the rates of medical malpractice over the past 25 years, finding that 2% of reporting physicians were responsible for half of the $80 billion in settlements.
This finding, conducted by NPDB employees, supports an earlier study done by Stanford university using the NPDB database, which “found that 1% of doctors were responsible for 32% of paid claims.”
The results of these studies have led the authors to suggest that new steps should be taken to protect patients from these “outlier physicians,” who are often litigated against multiple times. In fact, both studies found that doctors who paid more than one claim were more likely to pay more in the future, suggesting a pattern of repetitive malpractice. After one high malpractice payout, physicians had a 74.5% chance of having another one, more than twice the rate of those doctors who never made a payout.
The study included 321,682 payments for malpractice claims from between 1990 and 2015 totalling around $83 billion. Researchers found that 22,511 doctors (1.8% of all physicians involved) paid about half of the total amount, more than $41 billion. Of this 1.8%, only 12.6% of the doctors had “adverse licensure action” such as suspension or removal of a license.
The researchers conclude their paper by summing up their findings. They add that this study, taken in conjunction with other research conducted on the subject, point out “the need for greater attention to identifying outlier physicians and reducing their negative impact on the safety of patients. In any event, there is a need to make a diligent search for more effective means to oppose that impact.”
This research could have a significant impact on medical malpractice litigation reform. It helps to combat the idea that frivolous medical malpractice claims drive up the cost of insurance for doctors and therefore the cost of healthcare for everyone. The study suggests that punitive actions toward a small group of errant doctors may actually decrease healthcare costs more than making medical malpractice suits harder to make in general. State medical boards are responsible for investigating and restricting medical licenses, not hospitals.
Larry Schlater, a former neurosurgeon and current medical malpractice attorney, commented on the study by saying, “There has to be a cultural change...the hospital serves the community and the human beings that come into the hospitals are shareholders in their own healthcare. They have to be able to trust the hospital to be patient centered and take care of patients' needs first."
While there are thousands of dutiful and skilled doctors practicing in the United States, unfortunately, medical malpractice continues to plague our hospitals and clinics. If you or a loved one has been injured by a physician's negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. To schedule a consultation on your case, call attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at (800) 529-6162, or contact them online.