AHRQ announces patient safety and medical liability demonstration projects
Research Activities, August 2010, No. 360
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)—part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—recently announced grants to support efforts by States and health systems to implement and evaluate patient safety approaches and medical liability reforms. This is the largest Federal investment connecting medical liability to care quality. 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.
As part of his vision for a health care system that puts patient safety first and allows doctors to focus on practicing medicine, the President directed the Secretary of HHS to help States and health care systems test models that: (1) put patient safety first and work to reduce preventable injuries; (2) foster better communication between doctors and their patients; (3) ensure that patients are compensated in a fair and timely manner for medical injuries, while also reducing the incidence of frivolous lawsuits; and (4) reduce liability premiums.
Overall funding for the initiative is $25 million, with $23 million allocated to grants and $2 million allocated to a final evaluation contract. The HHS Patient Safety and Medical Liability initiative supports the following:
- Grants to jump-start and evaluate efforts. These are 3-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. These are 1-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.
Some of the reforms that are being planned and tested under HHS's initiative address limitations of the current medical liability system—such as costs, patient safety, and administrative burden for doctors. Grants support the creation of a judge-directed negotiation program, the development of "safe harbors" for State-endorsed evidence-based care guidelines, and early disclosure and offers of prompt compensation. Another component of the initiative is an evaluation of improvements in both patient safety and medical liability systems.
The evaluation is designed to develop the evidence base that will inform long-term solutions to the medical liability problem. For details on each project go to: Medical Liability Reform & Patient Safety Initiative .