Government puts up $75 million toward fixing malpractice system

On June 11, The Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality announced it awarded $25 million to states and health systems for demonstration projects attempting to improve patient safety and the medical malpractice system. The one- and three-year grantees include projects focusing on alternative dispute resolution programs, rapid medical error disclosure and the development of guidelines to reduce lawsuits, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Demonstration grants were given to a host of three-year projects aimed at reducing preventable injuries, improving communication between doctors and patients, ensuring patients are compensated more quickly and reducing liability insurance premiums, WSJ reports. Meanwhile, one-year planning grants will go toward developing evidence-based guidelines to curb lawsuits, reducing patient suicides and developing a legislative proposal that will define a legal standard of care for healthcare providers.

Although the grants are the product of an announcement on patient safety that President Barack Obama made in September 2009 to a joint session of Congress, the overhaul bill that ultimately passed this March included another $50 million in grants for states that want to explore alternatives to traditional tort reform proposals, reports American Medical News. Experts told medical liability insurers at a recent meeting that test projects might explore alternatives such as health courts, early offers, apology programs and medical review panels.

With the second round of grants, however, funds will have to be appropriated by Congress, amednews notes, adding that by the terms of the program, test projects can't limit the rights of plaintiffs and defendants to pursue claims through traditional means.

To learn more:
- read this article in the Wall Street Journal
- here's the WSJ Health Blog post
- see the article in American Medical News
- check out the press release