A recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine contains an interesting letter detailing new findings of a study on physicians’ medical malpractice costs. The ultimate conclusion of the writers is that because doctors incur high legal costs in the defense of medical malpractice claims as well as steep medical malpractice insurance coverage premiums, they must raise patient billing rates to cover these costs.
Examples of common medical negligence include failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, medication errors, failure to comply with accepted medical standards and practices, surgical or anesthesia mistakes and more. When a patient is injured by one of these types of medical malpractice, they should discuss with an experienced medical malpractice attorney what their legal rights and remedies may be.
An article in philly.com provides details of the study, including:
- Average cost to a medical professional of defending a malpractice claim (even with no payout): $23,000
- Average cost to a cardiologist of defending a malpractice claim: more than $83,000
- Average cost to an ophthalmologist of defending a malpractice claim: almost $24,000
A big concern discussed in the article is the length of time it can take for medical malpractice cases to either settle or go to trial, sometimes delaying deserved payments to injured patients for years as well as increasing ongoing litigation costs to both sides.
The article mentions one possible approach to this problem tried out by the University of Michigan hospitals. Instead of waiting for the litigation system to kick in, they proactively sought to identify medical errors that happened in their system early on and voluntarily contacted the affected patients, offering apologies and reimbursement.
This may be a promising model of more efficient doctor-patient conflict resolution, but it could not completely take the place of malpractice lawsuits. Not all medical negligence will be caught by a hospital and sometimes there will be inherent disagreement about what happened.