Hospital's Efforts to Boost Patient Safety Pay Off

Study found obstetric malpractice claims dropped by half after program was put in place

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THURSDAY, June 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Obstetric malpractice claims fell by half and liability payments were sharply lower after a hospital took steps to improve patient safety, a new study shows.

The initiatives at the Connecticut hospital included standardizing practices, training doctors and nurses to improve teamwork and communication, and hiring a patient safety nurse.

The Yale School of Medicine researchers compared the five years before the program was introduced to the five years afterward.

"We found a 50 percent reduction in liability claims, and also found that the payments made for these liability claims decreased 95 percent, from over $50 million to under $3 million," study first author Dr. Christian Pettker, an associate professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, said in a Yale news release.

The study was published online recently in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"We don't think that this is a cure to the medical liability crisis, but this is certainly one approach that can both make things safe for the patient and have tremendous improvements and reduce a lot of the costs in health care that go to the defense of medicine and liability," Pettker said.

He noted that increasing concerns about liability are leading to a shortage of obstetricians in the United States.

"Liability insurance rates are not controlled, malpractice awards continue to increase, and there is increasing awareness of litigiousness in clinical practice," Pettker said. "As a result, obstetricians are increasingly reducing or dropping out of practice, and future physicians are discouraged from entering the field."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about patient safety.

SOURCE: Yale University, news release, June 10, 2014


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