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Group launches Ga. patient safety effort

Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 12:18 PM
Last updated 7:48 PM
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ATLANTA -- The patients of doctors insured by the Southeast’s largest medical-liability company could benefit from added advice on procedures in the wake of a $50 million investment in patient safety.

The Medical Association of Georgia’s insurance company, MagMutual, is pumping the money into assembling a database that draws from the company’s own files as well as those of other physician-owned insurance companies and a national registry of every doctor’s errors. Part of the money is going toward translating the different computer programs, and part is going toward hiring advisors who will observe Georgia doctors at work and recommend better procedures.

“The fruits of that work won’t be fully realized for another year or two,” MagMutual President Neil Morrell said this week.

The advice could deal with subjects as simple as hand washing and better communication during hospital shift changes or as technical as ways to avoid misdiagnosis. The company’s 18,500 doctors will also be able to learn from seminars and simulation exercises.

To some extent, the company has been providing advice for decades, but that was more about how to avoid lawsuits -- such as how to deal with unhappy patients. The new initiative is focused more on boosting patient safety, Morrell said.

MagMutual’s size, as the largest in the region and No.1 seller of malpractice insurance in Georgia, gives it a unique opportunity, according to Brian Atchinson, president of the Physician Insurers Association of America.

“When we talk about patient safety, we’re talking about using the hard, real data that becomes available in working in a part of the health system,” he said. “The people and organizations that are insured bring an enormous wealth of experience.”

MagMutual has the money for this investment because claims against its doctors have dropped in half since 2005. It could have invested in company resources or refunded the doctors for premium overcharges.

“We decided that we didn’t want to spend our money only for the benefit of MagMutual,” Morrell said.

However, he denied that the initiative is an attempt to defend against a proposal in the General Assembly that would significantly change the medical malpractice system in Georgia. Senate Bill 141 would establish a system of no-fault payouts to people who file malpractice claims.

MagMutual and the Medical Association oppose the bill and argue it will raise healthcare costs by increasing the number of malpractice payouts.

“The whole idea that we are threatened by their concept is just ridiculous,” he said. “If we were a private company, we would be cheering for it.”


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