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Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2012 May;470(5):1370-8. doi: 10.1007/s11999-011-2206-2.

Medical malpractice reform: the role of alternative dispute resolution.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Toledo Medical Center, 3000 Arlington Avenue, Toledo, OH 43551, USA.



Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to techniques used to resolve conflicts without going to the courtroom. As healthcare and malpractice costs continue to rise, there is growing interest in tactics such as early apology, mediation, and arbitration in the medical arena.


(1) Why is ADR needed? (2) Is ADR useful in health care? (3) What are the current legal and political developments favoring ADR? (4) What obstacles remain?


We performed MEDLINE, PubMed, and Google Scholar searches with key words "medical malpractice", "ADR", and "alternative dispute resolution" to obtain public policy studies, law review articles, case analyses, ADR surveys, and healthcare review articles.


Early apology and disclosure programs report 50% to 67% success in avoiding litigation as well as substantial reductions in the amount paid per claim. Mediation boasts 75% to 90% success in avoiding litigation, cost savings of $50,000 per claim, and 90% satisfaction rates among both plaintiffs and defendants. Arbitration is viewed as less satisfying and less efficient than mediation but still more time- and cost-effective than litigation. The current legal environment is favorable to ADR with recent court decisions upholding pretreatment arbitration clauses. The main obstacle to ADR is the mandatory reporting requirement of the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).


ADR has the potential to help reform the current tort system, reducing cost and increasing both parties' satisfaction. Easing the reporting requirements for the NPDB would lead to more widespread acceptance of ADR among physicians.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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