When Bad Doctors Happen to Good Patients

August 31, 2015- The NYT has an Op-Ed today by some malpractice lawyers urging a new law to be passed in New York to expand the time frame for filing malpractice suits. Ignore that part of the essay and focus on these paragraphs where the lawyers get it right:

“Hospitals are dangerous places. In 1999 the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences published a study, “To Err is Human,” which concluded that at least 44,000 patients were killed (and many more injured) in hospitals each year because of medical errors. By 2011, a study in the journal HealthAffairs estimated that the number of avoidable deaths was probably 10 times higher. Hundreds of thousands more patients are seriously injured through negligence. Doctors and hospitals are doing a poor job of policing themselves, yet they have been successful at keeping anyone else from doing it.

Doctors and hospitals must do a better job of policing themselves. Six percent of all doctors were estimated to be responsible for 58 percent of all malpractice payments between 1991 and 2005. State licensing agencies must do a much better job of keeping those worst of the worst out of hospitals. The threshold for state medical licensing agencies to initiate reviews should be reduced; in New York it takes six malpractice judgments or settlements. It should be three at most.

Also, top hospital administrators should be held accountable for negligence committed in their facilities. The 10 highest-paid administrators and doctors at each hospital should have a significant portion of their compensation tied to patient safety. If 30 percent of their compensation was tied to an annual reduction in malpractice claims against their hospital, patient safety would be a higher priority. There would be no personal liability, but it would ensure that everyone in the organization would be more focused on keeping patients safe. But as long as hospitals and doctors block legislation and fight regulation, patients will remain in peril.”

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