Medical liability insurance flatlines; medical error deaths rise

Despite having one of the best health care systems in the country, California has been home to more than its fair share of medical malpractice cases. In fact, all across the United States, the news seems to favor cases of malpractice. Somehow malpractice premiums do not reflect this. According to Forbes, they have been relatively low and stable for a decade.

There are several reasons for the reduced costs to doctors:

  •          Well-capitalized carriers
  •          Medical liability reforms
  •          Consolidations within the industry
  •          Delivering healthcare using telecommunication technologies

Meanwhile, CNBC named medical errors as one of the top causes of death in America. Researchers came to this conclusion after estimating that in 2013 alone, medical errors caused 251,000 deaths. By digging up some of the data surrounding these cases, researchers believe they can better understand where doctors went wrong and how to prevent these mistakes from happening so frequently. Doctors are supposed to be credited with saving lives, not being one of the top causes of wrongful deaths in America.

Researchers say, so far so good. One excellent example comes from San Diego, California. At Scripps Mercy, the staff dealt with a lot of beach-goers who suffered injuries from getting too close to stingrays. Data from malpractice lawsuits soon determined that the main cause of patient casualties and resulting lawsuits was that doctors did not always examine a wound to ensure there were no foreign bodies or that it was not infected before stitching puncture wounds. The hospital has since implemented policies to correct this.

If doctors and hospitals are willing to cooperate with studies like these, the effect on medical error fatalities could be dramatic. However, even good doctors and committed hospitals may object to external scrutiny of their internal affairs. After all, there is no telling what researchers may find.