Mediation could cut malpractice costs

A new study of medical malpractice cases that went into mediation suggested that such a process could save money for the defendants and bring settlements to the plaintiffs more quickly, reports Healthcare Finance News.

Mediation uses a neutral, non-attorney third party to try and reach a settlement of the case. Either plaintiff or defendant may leave the process and use litigation before the conclusion, although the mediation sessions are confidential and cannot be used in a court of law.

The study, co-authored by Carol Liebman of the Columbia University School of Law, focused on 31 cases brought against not-for-profit hospitals in New York City that went to mediation between 2006 and 2007. Of those, 70 percent settled either during or immediately after mediation for sums ranging from $35,000 to $1.7 million.

The study cited the benefits of mediation, including speedier payments to plaintiffs, not having to hire expensive defense attorneys and the possibility of offering closure to both sides. However, it did note that management at many hospitals are still reluctant to use the process, and that physicians often did not participate, even though their presence could make the process even more beneficial.

"Change will require medical leaders, hospital administrators and malpractice insurers to temper their suspicion of the tort system sufficiently," according to the study, which was published this month in the Journal of Health, Politics, Policy and Law.

For more:
- read the Healthcare Finance News article
- read the study's press release