Malpractice claims against hospitals on the rise

Medical malpractice claims against hospitals likely will exceed 44,000 claims totaling $8.6 billion for incidents that occurred in 2009, risk management services provider Aon Corporation and the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management conclude in a new report. According to the two groups, the occurrence of claims has "entered a growth phase." 

Total malpractice claims per hospital bed are predicted to grow 5 percent annually, according to a press release touting the report. Hospital professional liability claim frequency currently grows at 1 percent annually. 

Weakened tort reform efforts in certain states, as well as an increase in hospitals employing doctors certainly are two likely reasons for the shift in liability costs, Erik Johnson, healthcare practice leader for Aon's Risk Solutions' Actuarial and Analytics Practice and author of the report, told the Wall Street Journal Health Blog. The recession also could be a reason for the increase in legal action taken, according to Johnson. 

"The uncertainties of healthcare reform and difficult economic times represent significant sources of risk for many hospital systems," Johnson said in a press release. "While many hospitals have grown accustomed to declining professional liability costs, the underlying claim frequency and severity cost drivers have entered a period of growth. Whether commercially insured or self-insured, hospitals and physicians should prepare for increases to their professional liability costs in the coming years." 

The study looked at 119 hospital systems and more than 1,800 facilities overall, a sample that represents 23 percent of the total U.S. hospital industry, according to the press release. 

To learn more:
- here's the press release about the report
- purchase the report for yourself
- read this Wall Street Journal Health Blog post