In 2001, the University of Michigan Health System instituted a fairly revolutionary program. Doctors, nurses and other health workers were encouraged to be up front about medical mistakes, reporting both their own and those of others.
A procedure was developed to guide the way in which staff discussed these medical errors with patients and families. Steps included:
Most hospitals are concerned that such openness will lead to an increase in medical malpractice lawsuits.
However, in Michigan, the monthly rate of filed lawsuits dropped by nearly 50 percent. During the same time period, the rate of malpractice claims dropped by more than 30 percent.
Does this mean that all medical malpractice lawsuits will disappear if hospitals simply institute a system that encourages honesty?
Researchers noted that malpractice claims dropped throughout the state during that time, though the study results still seem to point to something positive. Honesty will be necessary if the healthcare system even has a chance of being “fixed.”
Hospitals will never be perfect and the need for medical malpractice lawsuits will likely remain, regardless of new policy or procedure. Still, a more open and honest system can bring nothing but positive results.
In the end, honesty should be expected. As patients putting our lives in the hands of those we consider to be experts, it’s the least they can offer.