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Medical Error Disclosure Program Found to Reduce Lawsuits

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 18, 2010

When the University of Michigan Health System launched a program to inform patients of harmful medical errors and offer compensation, legal claims dropped more than 25%.

The numbers of lawsuits decreased along with liability costs, also the remaining legal issues were resolved much faster.

"These findings demonstrate that it is possible to implement a disclosure-with-offer program without increasing liability claims and costs," wrote the authors in the report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The authors, Allen Kachalia, MD, and others from the University of Michigan Health System, say their institution is the second—in addition to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, KY—to report its experience with a medical error disclosure with offer program, although other systems have undertaken such projects.

The study compares six year periods before and after the program's launch: between July 1, 1995 to July 1, 2001 and between July 1, 2001 to September 1, 2007. 

The authors say they wanted to examine how a culture of transparency affected claims. Although many hospitals and physicians say they fully disclose errors as is their ethical responsibility, "in practice disclosure may not occur as frequently as we might hope."

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