New Study Finds Patient Care Improved when Hospital Physicians Received Immunity from Malpractice Suits

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  • April 27, 2018

MIAMI–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Adverse medical events declined when physicians received immunity from malpractice lawsuits at a large Miami teaching hospital, according to a study published in the latest issue of Health Management, Policy and Innovation (HMPI).

The six-year study found no negative impact on patient safety when approximately 900 University of Miami Health System physicians received sovereign immunity from medical malpractice claims while working at Jackson Memorial Hospital, a public hospital that also serves as the University of Miami’s main teaching hospital. In fact, the incidence of harmful events decreased by 13 percent over a four-year period.

“This study suggests that without the threat of malpractice lawsuits, physicians are still committed to delivering the safest, highest quality patient care possible,” said Dr. David A. Lubarsky, chief medical and systems integration officer at the University of Miami Health System and the study’s lead author.

The change in sovereign immunity was led by Donna Shalala, former President of the University of Miami and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Medical malpractice premiums have risen dramatically in parts of the United States, sometimes deterring physicians from practicing in specialties viewed as high risk, or leading to so-called defensive medicine. With sovereign immunity, legal threats were eliminated that might have led physicians to defensively order unnecessary tests and procedures, each with their own potential for mishap.

Addressing this issue through tort reform alone, however, is unlikely to lead to markedly safer practices. Lubarsky said that any legal changes should be accompanied by initiatives such as better patient data sharing, education, safety management systems, electronic medical records with defaults to encourage best practices, and enhanced error reporting.

“An effective liability system should offer incentives to institutions that adopt safer systems,” he said. “These investments should result in fewer adverse events and increased quality than tort reform alone.”

An online journal relaunched in 2017, Health Management, Policy and Innovation (HMPI) seeks to provide actionable insights by and for scholars, business leaders and policymakers. HMPI is sponsored by the Business School Alliance for Health Management (BAHM), an international consortium of top MBA programs with a health sector focus.

About the Business School Alliance for Health Management (BAHM)

Formed in 2010, the Business School Alliance for Health Management (BAHM) is a consortium of 18 leading business school health management programs that supports faculty, students, and graduates in advancing education and thought leadership in the field. BAHM initiatives include an annual case competition, educational webinars, and Health Management Policy and Innovation (HMPI), a quarterly journal that examines the challenges of the health sector from a business perspective.