NU Online News Service, Oct. 20, 3:18 p.m.EDT

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Reversing a downward trend, the frequency of medical malpracticeclaims against hospitals is rising, an insurance brokerage and riskmanagement group has found.

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The information, that claims are expected to continue increasingat a one percent annual rate, after a decade of decrease, wascontained in a report released today by Aon Corporation and theAmerican Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM).

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Aon and ASHRM said more than 100 health care organizationsrepresenting over 1,500 facilities ranging from small communityhospitals to large multi-state health care systems provided lossand exposure data for the study.

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Besides frequency, "The tenth annual Hospital Professional Liabilityand Physician Liability Benchmark Analysis" examines trends inseverity and overall loss costs related to hospital and physicianprofessional liability.

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It found that one out of every four claims and 24 percent ofhospital professional liability costs are associated with hospitalacquired conditions such as infections and injuries, medicationerrors, objects left in surgery and pressure ulcers.

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The study attributes much of the rise in claims to the downturnin the U.S. economy.

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Changes to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaidreimbursement rules regarding so called "never-events",defined as preventable medical errors that result in seriousconsequences for the patient also contributed to the rise.

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In addition, issuers of the report said in a statement therehave been "changes in public sympathy towards health careproviders."

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Erik Johnson, the study author who is health care practiceleader for Aon's Actuarial and Analytics Practice said in astatement announcing the report that, "Worsening economicconditions in 2008 may have influenced individuals to assert claimsagainst hospital systems."

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He noted that, "In 2003 through 2007 public attention wasdirected on tort reform activity and prohibitive medicalmalpractice costs for physicians. This coincided with significantreductions in professional liability claims. As public attentionshifted to other subjects, the momentum of the reductionsdissipated. Recently, the public focus has evolved to discussionsregarding waste, inefficiency, and defensive medicine. It remainsto be seen how this will influence the frequency of professionalliability claims."

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His analysis also found that:

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oIn 2010, hospital loss costs per occupied bed equivalent, amajor part of the total cost of risk, are expected to increase fivepercent annually to $3,170.

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oClaim severity, including both indemnity and defense costs,continues to increase at a consistent rate and (where claims arelimited to $2 million per occurrence) they are projected toincrease by four percent annually.

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oIn 2010, hospitals can expect to incur liability costs of $181per birth in the Obstetrics Unit and $7.20 per visit in theEmergency Department.

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Aon said its database of hospital professional liability claimsused in the benchmark analysis includes 81,889 non-zero claimsrepresenting $9.5 billion of incurred losses and includesinformation for accident years 1999 to 2008.

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Copies of the "2009 Hospital Professional Liability andPhysician Liability Benchmark Analysis," can be purchased throughwww.ashrm.org/store.

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