Friday, August 27, 2010

Admitting Medical Errors: One Hospital's Experience

Imagine a hospital that actually encourages its employees to not only admit medical mistakes but tell the patient and family the details of the mistake. In addition, if they find that a treating physician was at fault for an error related injury, they offer the patient and family financial compensation. This sounds crazy and is a bolder move than I would have been willing to try, but apparently it works.

This is not a true study since it is the experience of only one hospital and there was no control group. But according to the Annals of Internal Medicine, the University of Michigan Health System tried this and saw the following outcomes:

1) Overall legal costs went down
2) Number of claims requesting compensation went down
3) Number of claims actually compensated went down
4) Time to resolve a claim decreased

I have heard for years that being open about medical errors with patients and family is the way to address them. But the extent of information shared by this hospital as well as linking it directly to an offer of compensation is something new. I would like to see more studies but University of Michigan Health System's experience certainly supports this approach. The hospital was on a downward trend for claims before this was implemented. But claims dipped well below the tend after this program was put in place so there is clearly a connection.

The message here is that a full disclosure with offer program will not drive up liability costs as one might suspect. In this case at least it had a very positive impact in the other direction. Certainly this is worth serious consideration.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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