In previous blogs, we discussed how medical errors are the third leading cause of death in America and how, unfortunately, very little progress has been made to prevent medical errors. Worse still, when medical errors occur, there is very little transparency about what exactly went wrong. More often than not, hospitals will deny the presence of wrongdoing and hide all information from the families or the patients. Any information uncovered in an internal investigation is only released to medical staff, and families receive no closure. Legal battles are often long and can be very emotional for the patients or their families.
However, hospitals in Maryland have recently helped develop and test a set of protocols intended to change this.
Since the alarming number of fatal medical errors has gained recent attention, the federal government has pushed for an improvement in safety within hospitals. One approach from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality was created with the intent of better supporting patients and families, encouraging more scrutiny and saving hospitals money on malpractice litigations when a medical error occurs.
Under the Communication and Optimal Resolution program, or Candor for short, hospital staff will be required to tell the patient or their families within one hour when a medical error occurs that causes harm to the patient. The hospital will then conduct an investigation and will deliver regular updates to patients and their families. Additionally, the hospital will pause the patient’s billing so that patients or grieving families are not further burdened with paying for the very procedures that caused them harm. Hospitals will conclude investigations after two months, share the results with the patient and determine how to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.
If negligence occurred, the hospital and the victims will negotiate how much compensation is owed to the patient or their family. One important aspect is that the patients or families are encouraged to have attorneys present during these negotiations to ensure they are receiving a fair offer. If they are not being offered a fair amount of compensation, the patients are still entitled to take the hospital to court.
Some speculate that hospitals will only use this system when it benefits them and will cherry pick the cases it drags through courts. However, if the program is consistently enforced, it could save the patients years of legal battles while at the same time, give them the answers and closure they deserve.