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Would a proactive approach to doctor's errors help in Maryland?

It may only be human nature to hesitate when considering whether to admit a mistake. In everyday life for residents of Maryland, a lack of transparency may not have particularly severe consequences. However, when it comes to medical care and doctor's errors, a failure to recognize an error and address the underlying problem can have real and long-lasting costs - both physical and financial - not only to the particular patient affected, but also those who may receive future care.

To combat this issue, some hospitals and caregivers have changed their approach to addressing mistakes. Spurning the typical approach of keeping errors hidden from the public, one hospital in particular has started an open dialogue of such mistakes. This discussion includes an admission of issues such as surgical errors and other treatment mistakes in a monthly newsletter for employees as well as an emphasis on open communication regarding solutions to avoid future errors.

Unfortunately, it appears as if this hospital's approach is far from the norm in the medical field, which can have a negative effect on patient care. In fact, a board member of the National Patient Safety Foundation noted that many in the medical field have complaints about a lack of action when errors are reported internally. In addition, some advocates, such as a former US treasury secretary, are urging facilities to take an additional step and make daily statistics on errors available for public view. This extra transparency may encourage medical professionals to ensure they are fully focused on each and every patient.

Certainly, changes such as the ones instituted at this hospital may have a positive impact of overall care. However, the reality is that errors can and will continue to happen, leading to unexpected complications and, in some cases, extensive medical bills for treatment related to the error. When such an unfortunate situation occurs, residents of Maryland have the option of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit to address their immediate issues. While policy changes - including a change in the approach to addressing errors - are admirable moves by hospitals, a lawsuit remains the best option for financial recovery.

Source: Boston Globe, "Brigham and Women's airing medical mistakes," Liz Kowalczyk, April 9, 2013

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