Response to Commentary in “The ‘Michigan Model’ for Malpractice Reform”

By Richard E. Anderson, MD, FACP, Chairman and CEO, The Doctors Company

I applaud Dr. Allen Kachalia and Dr. Sanjay Saint for their willingness to speak to the need for malpractice reform to help rein in wasteful spending in the healthcare system in their May 10, 2015, commentary in The Wall Street Journal, “The ‘Michigan Model’ for Malpractice Reform.” Many of their suggestions, such as health courts, are ideas worth exploring. However, I believe it is misguided to suggest that a communications program, such as the one implemented at the venerable University of Michigan, is a path to lowering healthcare costs.

Our own data at The Doctors Company, the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, shows that both the number and cost of all malpractice claims in the state of Michigan fell by an even larger margin than reported by the university for the same period. The causes of those reductions can be myriad. Improvements in patient safety, advances in healthcare technology, and increased efforts to improve collaboration and communication among healthcare providers were all likely factors.

Again, I do not say this to criticize efforts at improving physician-patient communication; indeed, I support them because it is the right thing to do. We cannot lose sight of the extremely personal nature of medical care in this era of hurried examinations, time-eating paperwork pressures, and technology that can stand between physicians and patients. We should all support efforts to improve physician-patient communication, but to claim that such efforts led to a reduction in claims, when in fact the entire state saw a reduction, appears to be correlation without causation.

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