Patient Safety Initiatives Appeal to Financial Interest of Hospitals

With medical malpractice reaching epidemic proportions in the United States, it is essential for patient safety initiatives to be expanded and improved upon. While one would hope that medical providers would be eager to embrace changes that would improve safety and save lives, that is not always the case. Increasingly, reformers and personal injury lawyers are recognizing that in order for patient safety initiatives to take hold, the economics of medical errors needs to be addressed.

For many years, the financial incentives affecting patient safety have been the elephant in the room. Many hospital executives believed that medical complications can actually result in higher profits, and this could be one reason why medical providers have given lip service to patient safety while failing to take strong action. More recently, however, the economic issue has been discussed publicly, with a study published in JAMA in 2013 revealing a “higher per-encounter hospital contribution margin” for certain surgical complications. One of the study’s co-authors, Harvard’s Atul Gawande, a surgeon, said he was frustrated by the fact that simple initiatives such as a surgery safety checklist, proven to reduce complications significantly, were not being adopted.

Some positive changes have already occurred. Beginning in 2008, Medicare, which accounts for 40 percent of revenue in the average hospital, promulgated a list of “never events” that it will not pay for. These mistakes, such as common preventable infections and operating on the wrong limb, should never occur, and hospitals are not paid when they commit them, creating a financial incentive to avoid harm. In another move for safety, the billions of dollars in funds that were granted to hospitals and doctors for electronic medical records systems as part of the 2009 economic stimulus legislation have led to rules requiring those systems be used to reduce medication mistakes and other medical errors.

Another initiative is “hospital engagement networks,” organized by the American Hospital Association and other organizations, and funded by $500 million from the Department of Health and Human Services. The networks will be used to share best practices for preventing complications and injuries. These initiatives and others are part of a slow movement toward improving patient safety, but much more work is needed. Briskman Briskman & Greenberg are medical malpractice attorneys that will help you through all your needs. Patient safety is a national emergency, and it should be treated that way.

Talk to a Chicago personal injury lawyer or car accident attorney today.

Briskman Briskman & Greenberg
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Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 222–0010

Briskman Briskman & Greenberg
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(312) 222–0010

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