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Medical error resolution programs: is their success enough to stem tide?

A recent article on Healthline looked at a resolution program at Stanford University aiming to promote more effective resolution of instances of medical error. The program, which involves the whole Stanford Healthcare system, utilizes two separate resolution tracks for patients and their families. The first is the health system’s so-called indemnity program, which provides compensation for recognized medical errors.

The other track is a resolution program which seeks to prevent cases involving smaller complications from escalating. This track provides patient compensation of no more than $5,000. Once a file is opened in this track, an internal evaluation is conducted and this is sent to an independent outside medical expert. Discrepancies will trigger further investigation. The health system provides contacts of patients to navigate the process. 

The dual-track program, which has been in use for seven years, has apparently been fairly successful in reducing malpractice costs, and patient advocates are urging the adoption of these types of programs to other health systems.

At present, many hospitals have little or nothing in place in terms of formal resolution programs for patients who suffer from medical errors, and patients are often left with a frustrating lack of communication from their doctors and other hospital staff. Hopefully the success of these resolution programs will serve to prompt wider change in the way medical errors are handled, but patients often need to work with an experienced advocate to make sure their rights are protected.

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