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Maryland hospitals trying new strategy to settle medical malpractice cases

Maryland hospitals are attempting a new strategy to resolve medical malpractice cases faster. The new practice involves referring patients to attorneys. According to MedStar Health, one of Maryland's largest health care providers, the new strategy appears to work well.

According to MedStar, the company is proactive in cases involving hospital negligence or doctor errors, but there is only so much the hospital itself can do in any given case.

The health system first starts a discussion with the patient to determine what exactly happened. After discussing the matter with the patient, the company attempts to work towards a resolution, which sometimes involves offering the patient a settlement. If the settlement offer is declined, however, the company then takes the strange step of offering the patient the name and contact information of an attorney.

Some say that offering patients such services actually helps resolve cases faster and prevents complaints from being drawn out. The new approach may also create significant cost savings to patients since the attorneys the hospital recommends are vetted ahead of time and agree to take the cases at reduced rates.

While some hospitals say the practice is good for patients, others are more skeptical. Critics of the program are concerned that there is a potential conflict of interest for attorneys on the list. Another concern is that the new program may place doctors in an unpleasant position, forcing them to face additional liability risks.

Although some Maryland hospitals may refer patients to specific attorneys, people still have the right to contact an attorney on their own. It may be helpful for an individual who believes they have been harmed by a medical professional to speak with an attorney. The attorney can investigate a case and determine what the best course of action may be.

Source: American Medical News, "Hospitals try new track: Refer injured patients to attorneys," Alicia Gallegos, Mar. 5, 2012

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