A Plan of Voluntary Mediation as Alternative for Malpractice Claims Doesn't Make it to the Demonstration Phase

From 1997 to 1998, staff at the Harvard School of Public Health developed the design of a voluntary mediation demonstration program for resolving medical malpractice disputes.

They also studied national medical malpractice claims data from the Physician Insurers Association of America in order to analyze the characteristics and outcomes of mediated and arbitrated cases.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Improving Malpractice Prevention and Compensation Systems national program.

Key Results

The project team developed a voluntary mediation model for demonstration, which included the following features:

  • Direct contact and communication between the physician and patient or representative family member.
  • Consideration of non-monetary responses (such as an apology by the physician and discussion of steps to prevent repetition of the injury) as well as monetary payments.
  • An expert panel to answer specific medical or legal questions raised by the parties.
  • A 50-50 split of mediation costs between the two sides.
  • Use of mediators with advanced training in mediation.
  • Flexibility in mediation procedures, including conduct of sessions by telephone if necessary.

Key Findings

According to an unpublished article:

  • Compared to claims resolved through traditional means, mediated and arbitrated claims were resolved in less time and involved lower defendant expenses.