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Will an open approach to admitting medical errors help patients?

In the aftermath of a medical error that causes severe harm to a patient, hospitals typically go to great lengths to avoid admitting fault. Generally speaking, hospitals and their staff will deny acts of negligence, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a federal agency, is trying to take a different approach. It developed a program, Communication and Optimal Resolution, or Candor, that aims for hospitals to be more transparent in acknowledging errors. This program was tested in 14 hospitals across the United States and may be implemented at more hospitals in the future.

How does Candor work?

The Candor program is supposed to work as follows:

  • After an error that harms a patient, hospital staff should tell the patient and his or her family within one hour
  • Hospital staff investigate to find what went wrong and how it could be prevented
  • The hospital shares its findings with the family
  • If the hospital committed negligence, it will make a settlement offer

If a family does not believe an offer is adequate, it can bring a lawsuit, although the hospital's investigation will not be available in discovery.

For these and other reasons, many medical malpractice attorneys have serious reservations about Candor. Some worry that by taking cases out of the courtroom, hospitals will be able to avoid responsibility and fail to fully investigate medical errors. In addition, medical malpractice lawyers are concerned that hospitals may not adequately warn patients of the benefits of retaining a lawyer. Proponents of Candor believe that it will cut down on the costs hospitals and insurance companies incur defending lawsuits.

For now, the Candor program covers a small portion of potential medical malpractice cases. Going forward, it will be interesting to see if this has any impact on medical malpractice lawsuits.

If you have reason to believe that you or someone you love was injured or killed by medical malpractice, you need lawyers who have the experience, skill and resources to develop a powerful case for your damages. The injury attorneys of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor have provided the highest levels of legal counsel for individuals and families across Delaware.

Source: Hospitals That Mess Up Are Urged To Confess, Bloomberg News, by John Tozzi, June 10, 2016

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