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What can medical malpractice plaintiffs learn from the Michigan Model?

Medical malpractice, as Michigan readers know, plays an important role in helping injured patients and the survivors of deceased patients recover damages from losses stemming from provider negligence. The ability to pursue litigation is something patients should have greater awareness of and appreciation for, since litigation offers the opportunity to hold a potentially dangerous physician accountable.

That having been said, medical malpractice litigation is not always the most effective way resolve disputes between providers and their patients. Medical malpractice litigation is often costly and time-consuming, and because of this many injured patients who have strong claims end up not pursuing litigation.

It is also increasingly being recognized that medical malpractice litigation doesn't necessarily address the important issue of patient safety in the way it needs to be addressed. Some health care systems, recognizing the limitations of the malpractice approach, have implemented special programs to help patients better communicate ad resolve problems with their providers.

One of the best examples of a successful model of this approach is that of the University of Michigan Health System. Since the program was implemented in 2001, there has been a decrease in the rate of medical malpractice litigation claims filed, according to a 2010 study.

The so-called “Michigan Model” has been studied in other states, and changes are beginning to take place. For instance, the state of Massachusetts recently passed a law which mandates that patients give providers six months of notice of their intention to sue for medical malpractice. The law also includes provisions which aim at increasing early communication between providers and patients.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at what makes the Michigan model so successful and how this can inform the way medical malpractice litigation is approached.  

Source: NPR, “Malpractice Changes In Massachusetts Offer Injured Patients New Options,” Michelle Andrews, Jan. 20, 2015.

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