A report into the University of Michigan´s Medical Error Disclosure Program has found that an early admission of hospital negligence reduces the number of compensation claims made against the hospital.
The University of Michigan Hospital adopted the Medical Error Disclosure Program in 2001, at a time when it was receiving up to 250 hospital negligence claims each year due to a patient suffering an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition.
Under the program, staff are encouraged to report potential problems and “near misses” so that steps can be taken to address issues that might lead to claims of hospital negligence in the future. Staff are also encourage to admit to patients and hospital authorities when avoidable mistakes have occurred, so that the hospital can act quickly to contact the patient and attempt to find a resolution without litigation.
By approaching patients at an early stage with an apology and a potential solution, the hospital has found that the early admission of hospital negligence has resulted in potential hospital negligence claims being dropped. By explaining what went wrong – and what can be done to rectify the situation – the hospital believes that patients feel they have been treated appropriately and are less inclined to sue.
In cases where patients have already engaged solicitors, the hospital authorities are willing to meet with both the patient and the solicitor in an attempt to find a reasonable solution in the shortest possible time. The admission of hospital negligence in these cases does not always result in a compensation settlement and the hospital now reports that is receives fewer than 100 claims for hospital negligence compensation each year.
By implementing the Medical Error Disclosure Program and suggestions made by medical staff, the average rate of new hospital negligence claims per 100,000 “patient encounters” has fallen from 7.03 to 4.52. In addition to saving costs with fewer hospital negligence compensation settlements to pay, the University of Michigan Hospital also saves of legal fees and litigation costs – with the average number of cases going to court each month having fallen from 2.13 to 0.75.