Tort reform advocates claim that obstetricians cannot pay their insurance premiums due to the high cost of malpractice insurance premiums.  A NYC hospital has proven that tort reform is not the way to reduce malpractice payments.  Breakthrough obstetric reforms at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital in NYC dramatically reduced staff errors and sliced medical malpractice payments by more than 99%!

How do you reduce malpractice expenses by 90%?

The changes ranged from adding staff, updating equipment and instituting new procedures for patient safety.  The use of drugs to artificially induce or speed up labor has been discontinued due to the risks of fetal distress.  Electronic medical record charting was implemented and paper charting is not allowed. 

Staffing changes were made with a full-time patient safety nurse to educate staff on protocols the doctors wanted and to conduct emergency drills, such as what to do if a mother begins to hemorrhage.  The department hired a "laborist", which is a new term for an obstetrician who works for a hospital full-time, instead of just having admitting privileges there.  The laborist works nights and weekends, reducing the time the other obstetricians must be "on call" in their off hours.

New York City Hospital reduces malpractice payments by over $25 million per year

The physician responsible for implementing the safety procedures at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital observed that "We did not expect a rapid and significant effect on compensation payments." However, while many of the new safety practices were costly, the savings in medical malpractice payments "dwarf the incremental cost of the patient safety program", according to the authors of the Weill Cornell study.

At New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital, the safety changes resulted in annual medical malpractice payoffs dropping from an annual average of $28 million from 2003 to 2006 to $2.6 million a year from 2007 to 2009.  With of adverse outcomes reported in 2008 and 2009, the totals are expected to drop even more.  The yearly savings in malpractice payments has been $25 million since the new safety practices were implemented.

Is tort reform really the answer?

If other hospitals and obstetricians focused on patient safety, such as those at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital, they might not have to worry about the costs of their malpractice premiums and large malpractice payments.  Obstetricians will be better served by focusing on patient safety, instead of their obsession with tort reform and depriving victims of malpractice of their rights.

Please do not hesitate to call me on my toll-free cell at 866-889-6882 if you have any questions on this subject.  IF you would like a free cop of my book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, you can get your copy from my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.
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