In recent years, the University of Michigan Healthy System has received a lot of attention for its handling of medical errors. Although UMHS still has medical errors, it has reduced its medical malpractice expenses through a simple approach that may be a model for hospitals across the country.
The UMHS Approach
Over the last decade, UMHS has been changing the way it handles medical errors. There are three basic tenets to the system:
- Compensate patients quickly and fairly when inappropriate care leads to injury
- Support clinical staff when the care was reasonable
- Ask patients to talk about experiences to prevent future errors
Since UMHS implemented the new system, medical malpractice claims per month have dropped, total liability costs have dropped, and claims with and without merit are being resolved faster, with less litigation costs.
The approach is also known as Disclose, Apologize, and Offer (DA&O), because that’s how it responds to patients and relatives when something goes wrong.
Why the UMHS Approach Works
The Michigan Method looks at some of the basic causes of medical malpractice lawsuits. One of these causes is the desire to get answers. When people suffer additional injury when they trusted themselves to a doctor’s care, they want to know why. When doctors refuse to give answers, people look for help, which medical malpractice lawyers are willing to give. People also want to know that doctors are being held responsible for their errors, and that steps will be taken to prevent it from happening again.
DA&O works because it gives patients the answers they’re looking for.
DA&O also works because it recognizes that litigation is a potentially large portion of the expense of a medical malpractice claim. According to a review of medical malpractice claims, administrative expenses—such as lawyers—eat up 54 cents out of every dollar paid for compensation. Worse, it shows that 78% of administrative costs come in cases where the doctor was definitely in error. By aggressively defending error cases, hospitals increase their litigation costs.
Although we’re a long way from universal acceptance, the Michigan Method is catching on, with six states implementing or studying the Michigan Method.
Unfortunately, in New Jersey, you are unlikely to get a disclosure, apology, or offer from your physician in the event of a medical error. If you have been hurt, and you need answers or compensation, please contact Andres & Berger in Haddonfield, NJ for a free initial consultation.