Initiatives put patient safety in the back seat

The Obama administration allocated $23 million to examine patient safety initiatives in the hopes of reducing liability costs. Early results of this multi-million dollar expenditure are programs aimed at keeping malpractice cases out of the court system.

By Healthcare Facilities Today

The latest statistics show that medical errors, most of which are preventable, are the third leading cause of death in America. The cost of injuries to families and to the health care system is likely near $1 trillion dollars annually. This intolerable situation is perhaps all the more shocking because we already know about how to fix much of this, according to a blog on the Huffington Post.

When the labor and delivery unit at NY Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center implemented a comprehensive obstetric patient safety program, not only were catastrophic errors dramatically reduced but also compensation payments fell by 99.1 percent, said Joanne Doroshow, Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School.

"In 2010, in response to organized medicine's push for additional liability limits in the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration allocated $23 million to examine patient safety initiatives in the hopes of reducing liability costs. While it seemed like a waste to spend another $23 million to explore many issues we already understood, we thought it couldn't hurt. But then we read several articles in this month's Health Affairs. This issue summarizes some early results of this multi-million dollar expenditure and "six pioneering programs," which are aimed at keeping cases out of the court system through early offer and settlement programs now existing in a few medical systems,"she wrote.

According to the blog, early offer and settlement programs basically allow hospitals to approach patients injured by negligence, tell them what happened (since hospitals rarely do that), perhaps apologize and offer them money. 

"Sounds good on paper, but imagine the weakened parents of a severely brain-injured newborn, with absolutely no idea what funds will be needed to provide around-the-clock care for this child's lifetime. Then imagine those parents being offered sympathy and a settlement by a hospital risk manager who does not disclose his sole obligation -- to keep hospital costs low. Ethically, this kind of thing should not even be allowed,"  Doroshow wrote.

Aside for the issues of fair compensation and ethics, let's turn to patient safety, which proponents of "early offer" programs tout as a major benefit. Proponents of these programs say that when errors are disclosed, hospitals will act to correct things. Again, sounds good on paper but what do we really know? the blogger asks.

Read the blog.



January 28, 2014

Topic Area: Blogs

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