Actions to respond to the increasing medical malpractice risk

The healthcare system in Asia, is renowned for its outstanding quality and efficiency which has attracted medical tourists from around the globe. However, in recent years, more cases of medical malpractice are being found in the region. In Singapore, last year, there was a nearly 30% increase (opens a new window) in complaints against doctors. A recent study (opens a new window) by the Medical Council of Hong Kong also showed an upward trend in the number of complaints against medical practitioners in Hong Kong.

Why are medical practitioners in Asia becoming more exposed?

  • Rising expectations. Higher expectations of medical services and awareness of patients’ rights brings a growing number of claims and claim rate on medical negligence. This will only continue as the standard of living rises across Asia

  • High costs that come with a lawsuit. It takes a lot of money and time to settle a medical malpractice claim. In Hong Kong, the duration of most medical negligence claims is around one to four years. Additionally, if medical practitioners found responsible for medical negligence, they are required to award punitive damages, which can be extremely costly. In Hong Kong, punitive damages award has costed public hospitals $1.85 million HKD.

  • High burnout. As the pace of population aging accelerates, the issue of understaffing and overworking at hospitals becomes more alarming. For instance, Japan is expecting a shortage of around 1 million (opens a new window) medical workers by 2040. In Hong Kong, 70% (opens a new window) of young doctors are overworked. Overworked and fatigued, medical practitioners are exposed to a higher risk of making mistakes. According to a study (opens a new window), burnout doctors are twice as likely to make errors and poor judgement during medical procedures.

Ways to mitigate medical malpractice risk

  • Communicate with patients effectively. Effective communication allows medical practitioners to better understand patients’ needs and expectations, avoiding medical malpractice caused by miscommunication.

  • Understand the challenges you are facing. Medical practitioners are exposed to new risks under the changing regulatory landscape. To better understand these new challenges, medical practitioners should seek advice from experts who are experienced in managing healthcare risk.

  • Be adaptive. Asia’s ageing population and the problems that comes with it are societal issues that cannot be resolved in a short term. Medical practitioners should therefore learn to be more resilient to the volatile healthcare environment.

  • Healthcare liability insurance. Healthcare liability insurance is becoming increasingly important to medical practitioners and the establishments they work in. It protects medical practitioners by covering legal cost and punitive damages arisen from medical negligence claims. In many cases situations can be resolved without involving costly law firms

If you wish to learn more about medical malpractice and how healthcare liability insurance can help your organization, please contact one of our experts at:

Rob Russell, Regional Head of Global Professional & Financial Risks (GPFR), Asia | +66 (0) 2 635 5000 (Ext. 2801) | (opens a new window)