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Massachusetts hospitals offer transparency after doctor errors

When children make mistakes, many parents teach them that the most important thing is to learn something from it so it does not happen again. When it comes to doctor errors in Massachusetts, many experts say the same kind of thinking applies and can even reduce future mistakes. Several state hospitals are taking that reasoning and using it to improve their processes.

Two hospitals have been using the Care program for more than a year, communicating, apologizing and resolving situations surrounding serious medical mistakes. Physicians have been encouraged to be transparent to both administration and patients about the errors. At one facility, staff reviewed 100 cases in which the care of a patient deviated from the plan, and they issued apologies in six of them. For example, in a case in which staff did not properly manage an elderly woman's medication, the hospital worked with the family to find a nonmonetary resolution. 

A patient safety specialist at one of the hospitals said that formerly, if a physician committed a serious error, there was an effort to keep the situation quiet. That would result in a medical malpractice lawsuit so patients could gain some sense of justice. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, there were more than 750 serious medical mistakes in state hospitals last year.

It is important to note that under this system, if a family accepts the hospital's resolution, they are not permitted to sue the facility. Transparency regarding health care is important, though patients should also feel they have rights to pursue compensation when a physician makes a serious error. People who have experienced medical malpractice should consult with an attorney to determine the best resolution.

Source: New England Public Radio, "Hospitals Step Up Apology Process Around Medical Errors," Karen Brown, Oct. 2, 2014 

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