Sunday, September 20, 2009

Addressing Safety & Medical Liability

AHRQ plans to support new demonstration grants, contracts, and planning grants that will go to states, localities, and healthcare systems to test models. The idea is to put patient safety first, reduce preventable injuries, foster better communication between doctors and patients, and ensure that patients are fairly and quickly compensated for legitimate medical injuries. The goal is to reduce the incidence of frivolous lawsuits and to reduce escalating liability premiums.

Too many patients experience significant challenges with healthcare quality and patient safety, and are not well served by the current medical liability system. The correlation between lawsuits and negligent care is weak. A substantial proportion of cases associated with negligent care do not result in lawsuits, and at the same time, a substantial proportion of lawsuits are not associated with negligent care.

Many experts believe fear of liability is a substantial barrier to the development of transparent and effective patient safety initiatives in hospitals and other settings. The medical community reports serious problems with the medical liability system. Many physicians have experienced sharp increases in premiums for medical malpractice liability insurance and many believe that medical liability concerns leads to defensive medicine which in turn, contributes to higher healthcare costs.

AHRQ anticipates soliciting applications for the demonstrations starting October 2009 with funding to begin in early 2010. Specifically, the demonstration will evaluate approaches to improving patient safety, how to reduce defensive medicine, provide for fair and timely compensations to patients and families, ways to reduce malpractice premiums and how to provide for enhanced physician accountability.

At this time, AHRQ cannot provide further comments on the future solicitation, but general comments can be directed to Kathie Kendrick, Deputy Director, AHRQ, email