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Rand Corp. released a study this week that tested the correlation between safety outcomes and the volume of malpractice claims within California’s counties. Prior to this study, many assumed that improved hospital safety would lead to fewer malpractice claims but no formal testing had been done.

The study’s results showed a significant correlation between the frequency of adverse events and malpractice claims: On average, a county that shows a decrease of 10 adverse events in a given year would also see a decrease of 3.7 malpractice claims. Likewise, a county that shows an increase in 10 adverse in a given year would also see, on average, an increase of 3.7 malpractice claims. The statistical analysis found that nearly three-fourths of the within-county variation in annual malpractice claims could be accounted for by the changes in patient safety outcomes.

In our current health-care system, 98,000 patients are killed by preventable medical errors a year, costing over $29 billion annually. These numbers from the Institute of Medicine do not even include patients who are seriously injured by medical errors. Finally, this study empirically reveals an obvious solution to reduce malpractice claims and increase patient safety: safer institutions. These institutions that proactively place patient safety as the top priority are just one answer to America’s health care problems, not the so-called tort-reform proposed by the opponents of real health care reform.

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