The medical malpractice system in the U.S. is doing little to improve the quality of health care, according to new research.
Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the research focused on concerns that doctors with poor malpractice liability records bolt locations for a fresh start.
Researchers concluded, “physicians with multiple malpractice claims were no more likely to relocate geographically than those with no claims, but they were more likely to stop practicing medicine or switch to smaller practice settings.”
Still, a majority of doctors who had five or more paid claims kept on practicing. When they did make a move, it was often to solo or small group practices, where there’s less oversight, according to researchers.
According to Michelle Mello, an author of these papers and a professor of law and of health research and policy at Stanford University, “malpractice frequent fliers could benefit from intervention from peers, hospitals and insurers to help them improve their practice or recognize limitations that should lead to changes in what they do clinically. When they instead just hang out a shingle, that opportunity is likely to be lost.”
Those with five or more claims had more than twice the odds of moving into solo practice.
Good news for most physicians, the latest analysis confirmed prior research, that a small percentage of physicians, just 2%, are responsible for 39% of all claims.
The study’s authors linked a subset data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, which houses information on malpractice claims, to the Medicare Data on Provider Practice and Specialty data set, which contains information on practice location and type.
The researchers then examined “associations between the number of paid malpractice claims that physicians accrued and exits from medical practice, changes in clinical volume, geographic relocation, and change in practice-group size.”
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