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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Taking an Actuarial Approach to Medical Malpractice Reduction

Last month, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) released its study of claims data estimating that measurable medical errors cost nearly $20 billion in 2008. One of the stated goals of the study was "helping heathcare systems to take an actuarial approach, which can more systematically identify potential causes of medical errors than alternative approaches," according to SOA spokesman Jim Toole. Now, it seems healthcare systems are doing just that, using the data from medical malpractice claims to help identify the causes of error and reduce future occurrences.

The SOA analyzed doctors own insurance claims statements to determine that there were probably at least $19.5 billion in additional medical costs related to medical errors. The SOA study began by looking at medical injuries. They determined that there were at least 6.3 million medical injuries in the US in 2008. They found that about 7% of all hospital admissions resulted in some form of medical injury, and that these medical injuries included about 1.5 million medical errors, resulting in at least 2500 avoidable deaths and more than 10 million days of work missed due to temporary disability. They estimated that the average total cost per error was about $13,000, but this did not include pain and suffering, legal costs and other costs not trackable in the doctors' claims.

It seems that doctors are taking this data to heart. According to a column in yesterday's Wall Street Journal Health section, doctors are analyzing medical malpractice claims to figure out what causes medical errors and prevent future errors. According to the data reported by the Journal, the actual cost and frequency of injuries is much higher than the SOA study found. Patient-safety researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimate that diagnostic errors alone kill 40-80,000 hospital patients annually.

Medical malpractice lawsuits also show that it is often not a single error, but multiple errors--generally at least three--that lead to medical malpractice claims. According to data compiled by the Journal, the most common causes of error are:

  • Error in judgement
  • Forgetfulness or lack of vigilance
  • Gap in knowledge
  • Patient's error
  • Handoffs between doctors and other staff

This trend shows that your medical malpractice lawsuit can do more than get compensation for your injury or loss. It can help doctors and other healthcare providers learn the serious flaws in the system that contribute to serious medical errors. Once doctors learn these flaws, they can be corrected and perhaps then no one else will have to suffer the same type of serious injury that you have suffered.

If you have suffered a serious medical injury or lost a loved one due to a doctor's or systematic error, the medical malpractice lawyers of The Cochran Firm can help. Please contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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posted by Benjamin A. Irwin at 8:31 AM

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The Cochran Firm handles Civil Litigation and Criminal Defense claims for clients throughout the United States of America. The information on this website does not constitute legal advice nor form an attorney-client relationship.Please contact The Cochran Firm today to schedule a free consultation.

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