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U-M's efforts to encourage disclosure of medical errors decreased claims
Date:8/16/2010

Ann Arbor, Mich. The University of Michigan's program of full disclosure and compensation for medical errors resulted in a decrease in new claims for compensation (including lawsuits), time to claim resolution and lower liability costs, according to a study published Aug. 17 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"The need for full disclosure of harmful medical errors is driven by both ethics and patient safety concerns," said lead study author, Allen Kachalia, M.D., J.D., Medical Director of Quality and Safety at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "However, because of fears that disclosing every medical error may lead to more malpractice claims and costs, disclosure may not happen as often and consistently as we would hope."

In 2001, the University of Michigan Health System launched a comprehensive claims management program that centered on full disclosure with offers of compensation for medical errors. Under this model, U-M proactively looked for medical errors, fully disclosed found errors to patients and offered compensation when at fault. Researchers conducted a retrospective before-and-after analysis to determine how the UMHS model affected claims and costs. Reviewing claims from 1995 to 2007, researchers found a decrease in new legal claims (including the number of lawsuits per month), time to claim resolution, and total liability costs after implementation of the disclosure with offer program.

"The decrease in claims and costs may be attributed to a number or combination of factors," says Kachalia. "We found a 61 percent decrease in spending at the UMHS on legal defense costs, and this supports the possibility that patients may be less likely to file lawsuits when given prompt transparency and an offer of compensation."

Researchers hope that this study will alleviate the fears associated with disclosure and will further encourage efforts to disclose all harmful medical errors.

Richard C. Boothman, chief risk
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Contact: Mary Masson
mfmasson@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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