News Releases

HEALTH CARE: Murray Announces Washington State to Lead Effort in Medical Malpractice Reform

Jun 11 2010

Grants made possible by Health Care Reform Law will come to state to study best ways to put patient safety first and help reduce the cost of malpractice insurance

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty announced that Washington state will be receiving four grants from the Department of Health and Human Services to invest in state programs that work to implement and evaluate patient safety approaches and medical liability reforms.  The investments 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, and are funded under the new health care reform law.

“Washington state is already a national leader in coming together to protect patients, reduce frivolous lawsuits, and help doctors focus on practicing medicine,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Our doctors, hospitals, and patients deserve a system that works.  Medical malpractice reform isn’t a silver bullet, but it will help us to improve patient safety and reduce unnecessary costs.  I’m pleased that Washington state will help lead the nation in this long-term effort.”

Washington state passed malpractice reform in 2006 by bringing together doctors, attorneys, insurers, hospitals and patient advocates. The investments awarded today will help Washington state improve on this effort and help build systems that can be expanded on at the federal level.

Four Washington state programs, led by the following individuals, are among only 20 national efforts to receive grants:

Thomas Gallagher, M.D., University of Washington, Seattle, WA, $2,972,209

The project creates a statewide initiative involving communication training for health care workers and a collaboration between hospitals and a malpractice insurer to improve adverse event analysis, disclosure, and compensation. The goal is to enhance the culture of health care communication in order to improve patient safety and decrease medical malpractice liability.

Dianne Garcia, J.D., Multicare Health System, Tacoma, WA, $299,985

The project will develop a plan for implementing an integrated medical liability and patient safety program based on identifying avoidable patient safety problems, and providing an acknowledgement, apology, and standardized compensation to patients who have been harmed or their families.

Karen Domino, M.D., M.P.H., University of Washington, Seattle, WA, $299,071

This project will develop and implement patient-friendly shared decision-making tools and processes for patients undergoing orthopaedic surgery in the University of Washington Health Care System. Shared decision-making improves patient safety by enhancing patient understanding and empowering patients to actively participate in the care.

Cindy Lou Corbett, Ph.D., Washington State University, Pullman,WA, $298,810

This project will use stakeholder focus groups to design best practice medication risk management systems that can be integrated into transitional care. Upon successful completion, researchers expect to demonstrate that they can integrate medication risk management efforts into transitional care models to maximize safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness while reducing medical liability

The HHS Patient Safety and Medical Liability initiative supports the following:

  • Grants to jump-start and evaluate efforts.  Three-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.  One 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, HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) issued a review of reforms to the medical liability system and their impact on health care quality, patient safety, and medical liability claims.