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A new study has found that responding to medical errors with full disclosure, an apology and an offer of compensation significantly reduces lawsuits, costs and the time it takes to resolve claims. Since the policy was instituted in 2001, malpractice lawsuits filed against the University of Michigan Health System monthly dropped from 2.13 to 0.75 per 100,000 patient encounters. Liability costs dropped by more than half. The health system reviews each claim to determine if there was an error – if not, they defend vigorously, if so they apologize and make an offer to compensate the victim. It would be interesting to see what the impact on total health costs (medical malpractice is often offered as a driver of skyrocketing costs, Michigan implemented med mal reform in 1994) and on the quality of patient care. There is evidence that linking the apology to resulting improvements in patient safety reduces lawsuits; many patients are not seeking money but want to make sure the same mistake doesn’t happen again.
Ellen Andrews