According to a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, medical negligence claims have fallen significantly at the University of Michigan Hospital since the facility introduced a Medical Error Disclosure Program.
The University of Michigan introduced the Medical Error Disclosure Program back in 2001 in an attempt to reduce the volume of medical negligence claims being made against the facility by patients who had suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to a poor professional performance.
At the time, the hospital was receiving more than 250 pending medical negligence claims a year which placed a significant financial burden upon the hospital – not only in terms of compensation settlements, but also in the cost of legal representation and court fees. Now, the number of medical negligence claims received by the hospital has fallen to less than 100 – with additional savings in the legal costs of defending a claim – due to the hospital´s Medical Error Disclosure Program.
Under the program, medical staff are encouraged to acknowledge when mistakes have been made, inform the hospital authorities and apologise to patients. The hospital has introduced a system whereby medical staff can inform the hospital of potential problems and “near misses”, and suggest changes that would avoid similar issues in the future.
As well as implementing many of the staffs´ suggestions, hospital authorities meet with claimants and their legal representatives at an early stage of litigation, admit where mistakes have occurred and work with the claimant and his or her legal representative to achieve a mutual resolution about how the mistakes can be rectified. Often this approach has resulted in claimants dropping their medical negligence claims.
Hospital authorities noted in the report that if patients do not get an explanation of their care, they frequently feel they were not treated appropriately. By using the Medical Error Disclosure Program – and implementing changes when mistakes have been identified – the average rate of new claims per 100,000 patient encounters fell from 7.03 to 4.52, with the average monthly rate of cases that progressed to court falling from 2.13 to 0.75.