The overall frequency of medical malpractice claims has not increased for the second straight year, according to figures reported by a representative sampling of 700 health-care facilities and systems nationwide.
But the average size (severity) of claims continues to increase by 6% and the average amount paid to indemnify claimants is growing by 3%. The most worrisome finding is that the amounts paid to defend against liability claims are burgeoning by 17%, but this jump is partly explained by hospitals’ investment in claims management.
The authors of the analysis, done by Chicago-based Aon Risk Consultants, believe that the impact of tort reform passed in Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, Ohio, and other states has largely been realized. The authors do not expect significant nationwide decreases in claim frequency or severity in the future unless states pass more legislation. New patient safety initiatives, however, may be critical for sustaining a favorable frequency trend, the report says.
Over the long term, the authors believe, the health-care industry would benefit from a more comprehensive measure of quality than mortality—one that measures the success of patient safety improvements and their impact on liability costs.
Aon’s 2006 Hospital Professional Liability and Physician Liability Benchmark Analysis is the seventh annual report in a continuing series. The report was cosponsored by the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management, a membership group of the American Hospital Association.