Relationship between state malpractice environment and quality of health care in the United States.
Medical malpractice law is intended to foster high quality care and discourage negligence among health care providers. This observational study took advantage of differing malpractice laws by state and examined the extent to which the malpractice environment is associated with hospital quality. Investigators assessed quality using several measures: validated processes-of-care measures, such as whether evidence-based actions were appropriately taken for common conditions like myocardial infarction, pneumonia, heart failure, and surgical care; patient experience as measured by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems; imaging efficiency as reported by Medicare's Hospital Compare website; AHRQ Patient Safety Indicators; and 30-day readmission and hospital mortality rates. There were no associations between any of these quality outcomes and the rate of paid claims per 100 physicians. Areas with a higher malpractice geographic cost index had lower 30-day mortality but higher readmission rates, and higher malpractice costs were correlated with more inefficiency in some types of imaging. The authors conclude that malpractice environment does not appear to be associated with quality, but higher malpractice costs may lead to overtreatment.