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Hospital's patient safety efforts provide model for others

Posted by Smiley & Smiley on Jun 30, 2014 8:35:08 PM

One of the never-ending debates in medicine is how to keep costs reasonable for healthcare providers, and by extension, for patients. In recent years, medical malpractice lawsuits have become a convenient scapegoat. An argument often made by advocates of tort reform is that healthcare costs are skyrocketing because doctors must pay for expensive medical malpractice insurance and that they need to engage in “defensive medicine,” which includes unnecessary tests and other costly procedures.

In response to these claims, many states have passed laws making it more difficult for patients to sue for medical malpractice as well as laws placing caps on jury awards in such lawsuits. Has healthcare become any cheaper or even slowed its rate of growth? The answer is a resounding “no.”

The results of a recently published study show that a focus on reducing hospital negligence, medical errors and improving patient safety may be the most cost-effective investment that New York hospitals can make.

The study, conducted by the Yale School of Medicine, tracked the obstetrics unit at one Connecticut hospital for a decade. During the first five years of the study, the hospital seemingly operated the way most do. During the second half of the study, however, the obstetrics unit had implemented a program focused on:

  • Standardizing practices
  • Offering training to improve the teamwork and communication among/between doctors and nurses
  • Hiring a nurse to focus primarily on patient safety

The results speak for themselves. One of the study’s authors noted that during the second half of the study, "We found a 50 percent reduction in liability claims, and also found that the payments made for these liability claims decreased 95 percent, from over $50 million to under $3 million.”

Instead of fighting against the threat of lawsuits, hospitals should instead be fighting against the medical errors that lead to them. Medical professionals who take the latter approach will almost unquestionably find that the benefits extend far beyond financial savings.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, “Hospital's Efforts to Boost Patient Safety Pay Off,” Robert Preidt, June 12, 2014

Topics: hospital-negligence, Medical Malpractice, negligence

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