Research published within the past few years indicates that the scope of medical malpractice is much wider than many people realize. A study by Johns Hopkins Medicine from 2016 indicates that medical malpractice may be the third-leading cause of death in the United States, killing at least 250,000 people per year.
While official figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show lower figures, the authors of the study argue that this is because the CDC’s death collection system is too narrow. Identifying and analyzing the scope of the problem is helping physicians prevent fatal incidents of malpractice.
What are the potential flaws with the current CDC collection system?
The leader of the study authored a letter to the CDC urging it to make changes to the collection of vital statistics. He states that the CDC does not include undiagnosed surgical complications, medication mix-ups or computer breakdowns in its death statistics. Therefore, malpractice deaths related to preventable adverse effects such as these go uncounted.
Even the 250,000 figure from the Johns Hopkins study may be too low. Other studies have claimed an annual death toll from medical malpractice up to 440,000.
What are doctors doing to reduce malpractice?
Physicians and health care facilities, as well as the companies that insure them, are turning to an unlikely source to combat the problem of malpractice. They have reviewed thousands of malpractice suits to look at the specific complaints that patients have made. From there, they attempt to identify patterns of adverse outcomes and make plans to reverse them.