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When it comes to medical errors, are hospitals part of the solution or problem?

New York City residents are fortunate enough to have access to some of the best hospitals and medical facilities in the country. However, even the most experienced and astute physicians and healthcare professionals can make mistakes and, in cases where such mistakes come at a cost to patients' safety and health, legal action may be taken.

While researchers estimate that as many as 400,000 people in the U.S. die each year due to preventable medical errors, the process of determining when an error occurs and who is at fault can be difficult for hospitals and nearly impossible for the patients and families that are directly impacted. This is due in large part to the fact that there are no standardized policies with regard to how medical mistakes are investigated, determined, communicated or rectified.

For the individual patients and families who are adversely impacted by preventable medical errors, the financial and human costs associated with such mistakes can be significant and result in painful and debilitating injuries, costly medical bills, lost wages, loss of enjoyment and even death. No one should suffer these types of terrible injuries and losses simply because they sought medical care at facilities where they were promised optimum treatment.

Hospitals must do a better job of not only implementing policies and protocols to protect patients from suffering medical errors, but they must also establish clear and common-sense directives for how to handle errors when they occur. This includes how information is communicated to the patients and families that are impacted as well as to the medical professionals who were directly involved. In fact, being up front when an error occurs and embracing a culture of transparency may be the most powerful and effective means that hospitals have to prevent medical errors.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, "Financial responsibility for hospital medical errors: No easy answers," Zack Budryk, Nov. 11, 2015

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