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Health care tort reform: Improving the culture of communication?

From the Department of Health and Human Services, a news release announcing the HHS Patient Safety and Medical Liability initiative.

The Department of Health & Human Services' (HHS's) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) ) today announced grants to support efforts by States and health systems to implement and evaluate patient safety approaches and medical liability reforms. The demonstration and planning grants are part of the patient safety and medical liability initiative that President Obama announced during a September 9, 2009, address to a joint session of Congress.

The Wall Street Journal previewed the announcement, "U.S. to Begin Handing out Grants to Reduce Medical Malpractice Suits."

Overall funding for the initiative is $25 million, with $23 million allocated to grants and $2 million for the final evaluation contract. The three funding areas:

  • Grants to jump-start and evaluate efforts. Three-year grants of up to $3 million to States and health systems for implementation and evaluation of patient safety and medical liability demonstrations.
  • Planning grants. One year grants of up to $300,000 to States and health systems in order to plan to implement and evaluate patient safety and medical liability demonstrations.
  • Review of existing initiatives. In December 2009, AHRQ issued a review of reforms to the medical liability system and their impact on health care quality, patient safety, and medical liability claims.

Here's the list of awards for the demonstration grants, and this is the list of planning grants. From just a quick read of the limited materials that are available, the emphasis appears to be on making more information available for patients and encouraging communication with medical personnel on the theory this will reduce litigation. For example, from the demonstration grants:


Thomas Gallagher, M.D., University of Washington, Seattle, WA, $2,972,209
The project creates a statewide initiative involving communication training for health care workers and a collaboration between hospitals and a malpractice insurer to improve adverse event analysis, disclosure, and compensation. The goal is to enhance the culture of health care communication in order to improve patient safety and decrease medical malpractice liability.

Judy Kluger, J.D., New York State Unified Court System, New York, NY, $2,999,787
This project aims to protect obstetrical and/or surgery patients from injuries caused by providers' mistakes and reduce the cost of medical malpractice through the use of an expanded and enhanced Judge-Directed Negotiation Program currently used in New York's courts, coupled with a new hospital early disclosure and settlement model.

Again, just at first glance, it does not appear there are any proposals to consider making it less profitable to sue doctors.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.