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UMHS bucking the trend of deny and defend in med-mal practice

The University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) appears to be a trendsetter once again. This time, it is in the medical malpractice arena. Rather than employing the age old adage of 'deny and defend' when it comes to medical malpractice claims, the UMHS's response program is being touted as a model for the nation's hospitals according to a recent study.

The "Michigan Model" as it is referred to is based on learning from and learning to prevent medical errors and near misses and their consequences. Its goal is to ensure that the same mistakes don't continue to occur and that they are used as a learning tool. According to the authors of the study, this model is also receiving great support from among both the legal and the medical professions as both feasible and promising.

The Michigan Model has been a decade-long effort to fundamentally transform the way in which the UMHS engages and deals with claimants, their families, staff, and in how the hospital improves upon the lessons learned from the experience. The program is based on three central principles:

  1. Compensate patients quickly and fairly when inappropriate care causes injury;
  2. Support clinical staff when the care was reasonable; and
  3. Reduce patient injuries (and claims) by learning from patients' experiences.

By implementing these principles into their medical malpractice policies, the hospital has managed to reduce the number of claims per month (both with merit and without), total claims per year, and total liability costs. The UMHS has also been able to cycle through claims at a faster rate, resolve them more quickly, and avoid litigation at a higher rate than previously.

In dealing with the claimants and their families, the Michigan Model employs a philosophical approach of disclose, apologize, and offer (DA&O) which many hospitals shy away from assuming that they are better protected when denying and defending. However, the authors see DA&O as a unique opportunity to improve transparency and accountability among hospitals and their relationships with patients and families affected which may pay off in the long run.

Source: Newswise, "Doing the Right Thing When Things Go Wrong," Dec. 14, 2012

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