Study finds rising med mal payments

An analysis of surgical malpractice claims shows rising payment amounts, with patient outcomes as the strongest predictor of payment size. Considerable variation in payment size between states suggests a profound impact from local legal environments.

The researchers at the University of California San Diego conducted a retrospective analysis of surgery-related malpractice payments using the National Practitioner Data Bank from 1990 to 2006.1 Payments were adjusted to 2006 dollars. They evaluated predictors of payment size and large payments (defined as those larger than $1 million). Statutory law in the states demonstrating significant predictive values also was analyzed.

In total, 58,518 surgical malpractice payments met the inclusion criteria. Patients were predominantly female (62%) and inpatient (63%), with a mean age of 42 years. The number of payments decreased and payment sums increased during the study period. The median payment was $132,915.

Claims most frequently cited improper performance (42%). Patient outcomes were the strongest predictor of payment size and likelihood of a large payment. Children younger than 10 years old were 70% more likely to receive a large payment, and patients older than 70 years were 80% less likely.

Large variations across states were seen for payment size and likelihood of large payment. Patient outcomes were the strongest predictor of payment size and likelihood of a large payment. Children younger than 10 years old were 70% more likely to receive a large payment, and patients older than 70 years were 80% less likely. The likelihood of reaching out-of-court settlement did not appear to be correlated with known factors.

Reference

  1. Orosco RK, Talamini J, Chang DC, et al. Surgical Malpractice in the United States, 1990–2006. J Amer College of Surgeons 2012; 215:480-488.