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Some people like to argue that all attorneys are out there filing lawsuits against doctors every chance that they get. However, I have continuously emphasized that with improved patient safety and hospital accountability for medical mistakes, there wouldn’t be so many medical malpractice lawsuits because there wouldn’t be so many injured, or worse, dead patients. According to a recent study conducted by the RAND Institute, this appears to be an accurate conclusion.

In a study of California hospitals between 2001 and 2005, the researchers found that there were about 365,000 adverse events among patients, including post-surgical problems and hospital-acquired infections. During that same time period, there were about 27,000 malpractice suits in California. Overall, the study found a strong relationship between medical safety lapses that put patients in danger in each county in California and the number of malpractice claims in the state. Specifically, the researchers concluded that a county with 10 fewer adverse events also had 3.7 fewer medical malpractice claims per year.

The study is the first of its kind to show a connection between improved hospital safety performance and fewer malpractice claims. Lead author, Michael Greenberg, a behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation, stated:

These findings suggest that putting a greater focus on improving safety performance in health care settings could benefit medical providers as well as patients.

The take-home message from the RAND study: if doctors want to reduce the number of medical malpractice claims, then they should strive for improved patient safety.

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