Communication about medical errors and medical malpractice litigation, P.2

In our last post, we mentioned recent research from ProPublica showing that failure to communicate about medical errors is a common occurrence, despite the fact that better communication from providers and facilities can help reduce medical malpractice costs.

One good example of this is the so-called “Michigan Model,” an approach used by the University of Michigan Health System. The model is essentially a communication and resolution program which was adopted in 2001. The program is said to have helped the health system reduce medical malpractice claims by 36 percent. Not surprisingly, there was also a significant decrease in attorney and patient compensation costs.

Communication and resolution programs, like what is used at UMHS, are likely not the only necessary factor in helping reduce medical malpractice litigation. There are a number of approaches that have been and are being tried in an effort to cut medical malpractice costs, including limiting non-economic damages and passing so-called “safe harbors” for physicians. That being said, such programs can certainly play a part in these efforts.

At facilities where there are no communication and resolution programs in place, patients can and should be proactive in insisting on good communication with their providers. When there is a breakdown of communication and a patient is seriously harmed, it may be necessary to speak with an experienced attorney to determine one’s options. Litigation will not always make sense, but in some cases it will and it is important to work with an experienced advocate whenever the possibility of litigation comes into the picture.

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