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Hospitals Adopting Fairer Approach to Medical Malpractice Claims

A new transparent approach to medical malpractice claims management pioneered by the University of Michigan Health System was recently adopted by seven major Massachusetts hospitals. The UMHS approach is called the “Michigan Claims Management Model” and has been recognized as an effective way of helping improve patient safety and addressing unanticipated adverse medical outcomes in a non-adversarial way.

The Michigan Model also marks an important shift away from the “deny and defend” strategy used by most hospitals in California and across the country.

“The collateral damage from deny and defend has been underappreciated,” UMHS officials wrote in a recent paper in Frontiers of Health Services Management. “Its impact has long obscured the direct connection between lapses in patient safety and medical malpractice litigation. Its direct, albeit unintended, consequences include a fundamental failure to accept responsibility for patient injuries caused by true medical error, and that failure in turn accounts for decades of needless litigation and all of its attendant personal, financial, and ethical costs.”

“Abandoning deny and defend can be a critical first step to recovery,” UMHS officials added.

The focus of the Michigan Model is to promptly and fairly settle patient malpractice incidents caused by medical negligence, vigorously defend against claims that do not involve unreasonable medical care, and to learn from patient experiences. UMHS officials believe that this approach not only saves hospital systems money, but also refocuses hospitals on the patient experience.

“To understand the Michigan Model, it is critical to understand that the claims management process is only the public face of an organic culture shift that seeks to elevate patient safety to the foreground and relegate claims considerations to the background,” UMHS officials wrote.

Source: Sacramento Bee, “Honesty is the best policy: UMHS approach to medical error & malpractice spreads beyond Michigan,” University of Michigan Health System, April 27