For several years there has been an attempt to reduce the number of medical malpractice claims and settlement costs at New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporations (HHC). A report released by comptroller John Liu says the attempt has been successful with a steady drop in medical malpractice claims between the 2003 and 2011 fiscal years.
In the past the HHC would delay taking action on medical malpractice claims. This would cause the costs of settlements on malpractice claims to increase in the long run. Then HHC invested in risk management since it is responsible for its own claim costs. Now HHC determines early whether a claim has merit and if it does than they attempt to negotiate a settlement earlier, especially if there is clear evidence of medical malpractice.
Over the past ten years the number of medical malpractice claims that have been filed against New York City public hospitals has fallen by twenty-eight percent. In addition to the reduction in the number of claims, the amount paid out for the claims has also fallen by $65 million between the 2003 and 2011 fiscal years. During the 2011 fiscal year, HHC settled 249 medical malpractice suits, with the largest payout being $8 million. This settlement was for a claim made by a patient who claimed that she became a ventilator dependent quadriplegic because doctors failed to treat an infection.
Claims are also being used as an opportunity to identify areas where the entire hospital workforce should work together to help improve patient care. Improving patient care to avoid mistakes is one of the best ways to prevent medical malpractice. Additionally, improving patient care is not only beneficial to the patient but also to the hospital, especially since some New York City hospitals forgo medical malpractice insurance.
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