Medical Error Insurance?

My world as a patient advocacy consultant* exists in two camps, both of which influence each other constantly.

Camp #1 is the world of medical errors and misdiagnosis. That’s the world where my career began — although not by choice, certainly. It’s the world the Institute of Medicine referred to when it reported that infamous statistic that between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year from a medical error or misdiagnosis. It’s the world of shattered lives, deaths of babies and children, loss of loved ones and lifelong debilitations.

The other world is of my own making — a reaction and result of landing in the misdiagnosis camp. On a daily basis, as I am reminded through reading or being contacted by someone who has been affected by camp #1, I quickly run to Camp #2 — my advocacy, assistance, advice, writing, broadcasting — the work I can do to help anyone else stay out of Camp #1.

Because I’ve always been a positive person, I try not to spend too much time in Camp #1. Each day I try to think of ways to keep everyone else out of it, too. One aspect I wrestle with is the fact that, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t help everyone — nor does everyone recognize their need for help.

In effect, what I’m doing is providing patient safety insurance. Which takes me to today’s point.

We buy car insurance so we’re covered if something happens to our car. We buy homeowners insurance to take care of us if our homes burn down, or get damaged in some, insured way. Same with every other kind of insurance. We’re guessing that eventually something terrible will happen to ourselves or our belongings, and if it does, we want someone else to have to pay for it — so we fork over big bucks for that guarantee.

So it occurs to me — what if insurance companies sold medical error insurance? Policy owners would know that if a misdiagnosis or medical error happened, all the expenses would be covered. In my case, the $7,000 out of my pocket for the fact that nothing was really wrong with me, would have been paid for.

After all — the insurance companies are the only ones who profit in our current, horribly dysfunctional system, right? They are the only ones that come out on the positive end. So maybe through sales of medical error insurance they could affect positive outcomes for patients and doctors, too?

And here’s an even better idea…. medical error insurance would be sold as an INVESTMENT — and then — only to medical professionals!! That means — the way those medical professionals would make money would be if they didn’t have to pay OUT for errors that were made!! Think of it — the investing doctors would make money because they didn’t make mistakes!! What an incentive!

I think I’m on to something here. Have to think it through some more — because the idea, in its infancy, is both sick and profitable. Which, of course, is exactly what we’ve already got.


*Patient Advocacy Consultant — for lack of a better term to describe what I do — anyone have a better idea?

Want more tools for sharp patients?
Sign up for Every Patient’s Advocate once-a-week or so email tips.
Trisha Torrey
Scroll to Top