Newswise — CHICAGO, Aug. 26, 2014 – A study published in the Journal for Healthcare Quality reports that many huge malpractice awards can be prevented by targeted interventions by health care provider organizations to reduce patient safety risks, such as reducing diagnosis errors. The Journal of Healthcare Quality is the peer-reviewed publication of the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ,

Despite the impact and influence of large malpractice payouts on health care costs, little is known about their specific characteristics and overall cost burden. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Baltimore, reviewed all U.S. pain malpractice claims from 2004 to 2010 to identify key risk factors for catastrophic payouts, defined as claims of more than $1million. They represent 8 percent of all paid malpractice claims.

Results showed that the greatest percentage of catastrophic payouts occur from errors in diagnosis. The authors noted that errors in diagnosis have twice the odds for a catastrophic payout and that health systems should focus more attention on ensuring diagnostic accuracy.

“Factors associated with catastrophic malpractice payouts present opportunities for targeted risk management and quality improvement efforts, “ said co-author Martin A. Makary, M.D, MPH, a surgeon and professor at Johns Hopkins.

The authors concluded that future studies should evaluate targeted interventions to improve patient safety in areas associated with catastrophic malpractice payouts, including efforts to improve diagnostic accuracy.

About the Journal for Healthcare QualityThe Journal for Healthcare Quality (JHQ) is the first choice for creative and scientific solutions in the pursuit of healthcare quality. JHQ is peer reviewed and published six times a year.

JHQ publishes scholarly articles targeted to leaders of all healthcare settings, leveraging applied research and producing practical, timely, and impactful evidence in healthcare system transformation covering topics in: quality improvement, patient safety, performance measurement, best practices in clinical and operational processes, innovation, leadership, information technology, spreading improvement, sustaining improvement, cost reduction, and payment reform.

About NAHQFounded in 1976 and covering a full spectrum of healthcare specialties, the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) is an essential and interactive resource for quality and patient safety professionals worldwide. NAHQ’s vision is to realize the promise of healthcare improvement through innovative practices in quality and patient safety.

NAHQ’s 12,000-plus members and certificants benefit from cutting edge education and NAHQ’s unique collective body of knowledge, as well as opportunities to learn from a diverse group of professionals. These resources help assure success for implementing improvements in quality outcomes and patient safety, navigating the changing healthcare landscape, and serving as the voice of quality. Visit to learn more.


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Journal for Healthcare Quality