According to a recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services, there has been a decrease in preventable medical errors in recent years, to the tune of 17 percent. Because of this, the report noted, fewer patients have died and there has been savings in the cost of health care. This data concerns the period from 2010 to 2013.
The report looked specifically at what are commonly called “hospital-acquired” conditions, which includes things like urinary tract infections, pressures ulcers and surgical-site infections—all very typical in health care institutions. These types of medical errors are generally considered avoidable, and it is speculated that a significant reason for the decrease in recent years is the growing trend of Medicare and private insurance companies holding back payments in cases where there are errors in medical care.
Reduction in medical errors is something that is a significant challenge, and new strategies are needed to supplement some of the strategies already in use. Medical malpractice litigation, of course, is one such strategy, though medical malpractice litigation is limited in its effectiveness for preventing medical errors. Perhaps withholding payments for medical errors will continue contributing to improvement in this area in years to come.
Medical malpractice litigation doesn’t have as its only purpose to reduce medical errors, of course. Patients who are seriously harmed because of a physician’s negligence are also able to receive compensation for medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. And, as we’ve pointed out in recent posts, it is important for injured patients to carefully weigh their probable damages award against the costs of medical malpractice litigation, since litigation is not a cheap or easy course to pursue.
Source: The Detroit News, “Study: 17% drop in hospital mistakes saves lives, money,” Carla K. Johnson, Dec. 2, 2014.