One of the contributors to the cost of health care is the expense involved in addressing medical errors, particularly those that occur in hospital settings. Litigation leads to significant payouts leading to increases in medical malpractice insurance that result in additional overhead expense that is ultimately recouped from the price consumers pay for hospital stays. It’s a vicious circle that has been growing larger with every passing year.
A hospital system in Michigan (The University of Michigan Health System-UMHS) seems to have hit on a policy that has helped to reel in the costs that occur with medical errors, actually learn from their mistakes and improve patient satisfaction all at the same time. Their approach is being presented as a model for other hospitals to follow.
“By handling unanticipated and unintended incidents, and patient injuries, honestly and proactively, we’ve virtually eliminated groundless legal claims, allowing us to focus on issues that demand attention with clear vision and no more excuses,” says Boothman [Rick Boothman, J.D., executive director of clinical safety]. “We fundamentally focus on putting patients and safety first, and we believe other hospitals can do the same.”
Campbell [Darrell A. Campbell, Jr, M.D, UMHS chief medical officer] and Boothman have led a decade-long effort to implement and measure the results of the Michigan Model. It’s based on these key principles:
- Compensate patients quickly and fairly when inappropriate care causes injury
- Support clinical staff when the care was reasonable
- Reduce patient injuries (and claims) by learning from patients’ experiences
In that decade, new malpractice claims per month have dropped, total liability costs have dropped, claims and potential claims are being resolved faster, and UMHS is increasingly avoiding litigation in both claims without merit and claims with merit.
What a concept!