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ACOG: Lawsuits Can Result from Poor Communication

Full disclosure of medical errors is key in reducing malpractice claims, expert argues

WEDNESDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Solutions to the medical malpractice crisis should focus on the root cause of why patients sue doctors in the first place, argues a legal expert who delivered a symposium on medical malpractice reform at the 56th Annual Clinical Meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists held this week in New Orleans.

Richard Boothman, J.D., chief risk officer for the University of Michigan Health Systems, described an approach adopted by the University of Michigan in 2001 that involved a rigorous review process to determine if any errors were made, full disclosure to patients and quick apology in the case of any mistakes, and a thorough explanation to the patient if it was determined that no mistakes were made.

In August 2001, the University had 262 medical liability claims pending. But by August 2007, only 83 cases were pending, and processing time fell from 20.3 months to 9.5 months. In addition, average litigation costs were halved.

"Study after study suggests that patients sue primarily because they feel they haven't gotten answers. They feel that no one is accountable when an error has caused injury," explained Boothman. "Blaming lawyers and imposing caps and other hurdles to litigation simply doesn't get to what is actually driving patients to lawyers."

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