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Expanding hospital program encourages doctors to admit mistakes

A program created and tested by the University of Michigan Health System encourages doctors to admit to medical errors and start the resolution process as soon as possible. The initiative, called Disclosure, Apology and Offer, was recently launched in seven Massachusetts hospitals, including top facilities in Boston.

The goal is to reduce defensive medicine practices that raise health costs nationwide and provide an alternative means of resolving disputes in some cases. The program has already seen success in cutting costs and providing more reliable compensation for injuries caused by medical malpractice. Federal grants will expand the program to hospitals across the country.

The program requires hospitals to quickly disclose unforeseen accidents and negative health outcomes to patients and families, following up with an investigation. If the hospital concludes that it made a mistake, it apologizes and offers compensation to the victim. Patients can look forward to the program's encouragement of openness, honesty and concern for patient rights from hospitals and medical professionals. The program discourages cover ups, finger-pointing, and efforts to avoid responsibility after mistakes are made.

In some cases, the program could give patients quicker resolution of disputes. It could also encourage doctors to provide better care and listen more closely to patients.

The program may not be a solution for everyone, and not all victims may feel their concerns - or injuries - are adequately addressed. While the initiative may be a step in the right direction, doctors should always be honest and accountable. The program does not guarantee openness or fair compensation to victims of medical mistakes. Residents of Michigan who experience medical mistakes firsthand or in their families may want to consider consulting with an attorney about their rights.

Further, if a hospital offers a financial resolution, the patient may be required to waive the right to any future compensation. An experienced advocate can help patients determine if an offer fairly compensates them for their injuries, if bringing in a mediator is appropriate, or if legal representation is advisable before accepting an offer.

Source: Claims Journal, "Massachusetts Docs Eye New Approach to Malpractice Claims," Bob Salsberg, Apr. 23, 2012.

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