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Medical Error Disclosure Program Found to Reduce Lawsuits

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 18, 2010

"Apology programs can be successful in preventing litigation when they encourage the disclosure of errors and offer appropriate compensation to affected patients.  However, safeguards must be in place so these programs are not coercive and the legal rights of patients and their families are preserved."

In an accompanying editorial, A. Russell Localio, an attorney and biostatistician with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, said the Michigan system "identifies errors, discloses them to the injured patients and offers financial compensation, all without the involvement of the legislature, Congress, courts, or administrative agencies and with greatly reduced expenses for attorneys.

And while the Michigan report offers "promising answers," it "lacks details necessary to fully evaluate the plan's success," he wrote.  For example, "the authors could not distinguish disclosures initiated by the health system from those offered in response to a patient complaint," a distinction he said "is vital if the ideal is a health system that monitors its care and discloses its errors voluntarily before a patient's complaint."

He called for additional evaluation of such programs. "We still need more and better data to confirm their findings," Localio wrote.

See Also:
Top 10 Most Costly, Frequent Medical Errors

Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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