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In all of the ranting and raving , mostly from insurance companies about the high costs of medical malpractice, we hear about:

– Doctors doing trillions of dollars of extra medical tests.

– That doctors are fleeing the country in large motor homes. My favorite was the claim that there was a time in Illinois when you could not get treatment for a head injury. Putting aside that, I think the person talking this gibberish may have missed his appointment. Last time I checked, new medical facilities were still popping up across the U S of A.

– That every single medical malpractice case is a sure thing "Winner Winner Chicken Dinner" for us greedy trial lawyers.

The thing is, the numbers and the facts have never backed those claims up. The reality is, there are few doctors who are responsible for a majority of the malpractice. That most injured parties wish their doctors had done more tests. And most importantly, hundreds of thousands of people are killed through the negligence of bad care.

But that’s just one of the lawyers coming up with facts.

Let’s go to an outside source like the Society of Actuaries (SOA). They took a look at medical errors and found some interesting stuff:

  • measurable medical errors cost the U.S. economy $19.5 billion in 2008
  • Of the approximately $80 billion in costs associated with medical injuries, around 25 percent were the result of avoidable medical errors.

Looking close at their press release:

"We used a conservative methodology and still found 1.5 million measurable medical errors occurred in 2008," says Jonathan Shreve, FSA, MAAA, consulting actuary for Milliman and co-author of the report. "This number includes only the errors that we could identify through claims data, so the total economic impact of medical errors is in fact greater than what we have reported."

Key findings from the study include:

  • There were 6.3 million measurable medical injuries in the U.S. in 2008; of the 6.3 million injuries, the SOA and Milliman estimate that 1.5 million were associated with a medical error.

  • The average total cost per error was approximately $13,000.

  • In an inpatient setting, seven percent of admissions are estimated to result in some type of medical injury.

  • The measurable medical errors resulted in more than 2,500 avoidable deaths and more than 10 million excess days missed from work due to short-term disability.

"In the past, the insurance industry had low visibility in its involvement in quality-improving initiatives," says Toole. "Now is the time for the industry to assume an active role by helping health care systems implement an actuarial approach, which can more systematically identify potential causes of medical errors than alternative approaches."

The study also identifies the 10 medical errors that are most costly to the U.S. economy each year. Approximately 55 percent of the total error costs were the result of five common errors:

  • Pressure ulcers

  • Postoperative infections

  • Mechanical complications of devices, implants, or grafts

  • Postlaminectomy syndrome

  • Hemorrhages complicating a procedure

Looking at the study, we find : A problem, the costs, and a solution. Do you think it’s to cap medical malpractice claims or maybe eliminate them? Or maybe it’s to cap attorneys fees? Wrong again. It looks pretty clear that we attack the problem by reducing the number of errors, looking at each of the common errors and seeing what we can do to make them stop. That will drive down care costs, malpractice claims, malpractice rates (maybe- the insurance companies might not like that), and most of all save lives.


  1. Gravatar for james O'Hare RPLU AIC AIS
    james O'Hare RPLU AIC AIS

    Great Stats Mike.

    Does anyone out there think that the structure of the health care reimbursement system should be the target. The front end of HC delivery? A doc confided in me that after all is said and done, he makes about 15 bucks per colonoscopy. How many do you need to do per day. do you want to be number 12 that day? Cigna et al has engineered this.

    So the Humanas of the world changed quality HC to quantity HC. Get'em in get'em out. Send'm for a test.

    If there was incentive to do it better, cheaper and efficiently, nobody would care about the extra test. Actually , it would be the standard of care. Dump McCarron Ferguson and get competetive.

    So what are our problems prior to treatment:

    - A full hospital is the benchmark of great health care , not an empty one.

    - Blue cross et al charges obscene monthly premiums for the priveledge of meeting a $10k deductible, so I can then pay a 30% copayment.

    - So it isnt HC ,it is just catastrophe insurance with all quality removed.

    - The goal of the Aetnas of the world is to "NOT PAY" That is the primary goal, keep the money. This is a bad system. The Med mal problem is front loaded by United health care et al.

    All this backward money hungry pressure causes crappy HC and causes doctors to rush. Can we get back to quality from the treatment end? I guarantee it will improve things on the delivery end.

    You can focus on the drunk driver at the scene of the MVA. - or - To prevent it, you can go back to when he decided to get in the car. Fix the front end and the caboose will follow.

    Enjoy the weekend.


    Jim O'Hare RPLU AIC AIS VP med mal claims PIC , FL:

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment. I think reducing the errors is the key.

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