An alarming statistic was released today (Jan. 15, 2017) - that about two percent of all doctors are involved in half of all medical malpractice settlements, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) that has studied this issue for the past 25 years.
The NPDB reported that these settlements represented a total of more than $41 billion. At the same time, however, it was reported that only a small percentage of those reporting to this data bank lost clinical privileges or were subject to action by licensing boards. The study was published online by the Journal of Patient Safety.
This study supports a similar one conducted by Stanford University released a year ago that examined 10 years of NPDB data that found that one percent of all doctors were responsible for 32 percent of paid claims. Both studies led authors to the conclusion that action needs to be taken to protect patients delivered by these "outlier physicians" who are providing unsafe care to their patients.
These findings also point to the need to view malpractice in medical rather than legal terms. Tom Price, M.D., President-Elect Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, has publicly stated that "lawsuit abuse" and defensive medicine are major drivers of health care costs. These studies do not support that conclusion.
The latest NPDB study examined 321,682 malpractice payments made from 1990 to 2015 and found that roughly $83 billion was paid out. It found about half of all payments were paid by 1.8 percent of the group or 22,511 doctors. "If their payments could be substantially reduced or eliminated, it could make a major difference in the nation's total malpractice payout," the researchers wrote.