Malpractice cases in Los Angeles down, but patient safety improvements still sought by supervisors

Despite a dramatic decrease in the number of malpractice lawsuits filed in Los Angeles County from 2002 (354) to 2007 (107), supervisors in the county believe health officials can bring that number down even more. As such, health officials now have two months to formulate a plan to make patient safety data more accessible, the Los Angeles Times reports. 

The order comes on the heels of a report compiled by independent consulting firm the Abaris Group that concluded that current patient safety reporting, sharing and monitoring efforts aren't exactly up to par. According to Abaris Group president Mike Williams, doctors' peer reviews of one another also remain largely inaccessible. 

Supervisor Gloria Molina, the Times reports, would like to see that latter item improve, and quickly. 

"As a governing board, we feel we need access to all records of patient safety," she said Tuesday. "Our duty is to ensure the best quality of care at our facilities." 

Regardless, Molina is happy with the overall direction of patient safety efforts in the county, Roxanne Marquez, her spokeswoman, said. "We're encouraged ... because it does say that a lot has improved within the department when it comes to corrective actions in particular." 

Abaris's review also found that malpractice payouts in the county jumped 50 percent over a two-year span, despite the overall decrease in actual malpractice cases. In 2005, the county paid $8 million to settle such cases; by 2007, that number climbed to $12 million. 

To learn more:
- read this Los Angeles Times article
- check out this blog post, also from the Times
- here's the Abaris Group's report