Medical malpractice lawsuits serve a preventative function on future errors in two ways. First, the risk of facing a lawsuit (or the expense of paying compensation after an error) works to spur change that prioritizes patient safety. Individual doctors and hospital administrators often enact new rules, training, and staffing in order to ensure quality standards are met one hundred percent of the time. The expense of these changes are justified if costs must be paid for errors. Alternatively, these lawsuits may serve to warn patients about which professionals or facilities offer a higher risk of harm. The idea is that, in the marketplace of options, medical patients will chose the safer facilities. Those facilities will ultimately be more successful. The lower quality facilities will either change or be driven out of business.
The second option–driven by consumer decisions–only works, however, when those consumer have easy access to understandable and reliable information about doctor quality. It is in that vein that more and more groups are trying to share information about doctors and hospitals. We have frequently written posts on some of those new rankings, including hospital data compiled by Consumer Reports and a group known as Leapfrog.
Checking on Your Doctor