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Could CRPs reduce the need for medical malpractice claims?

Some Massachusetts readers may know that a CRP is a communication-and-resolution program that some hospitals are attempting to use with patients who suffer so-called "adverse events" in hospitals. The goal is to provide full disclosure to patients, conduct an investigation and compensate the patient or the patient's family. It is hoped that a CRP program will reduce the need for medical malpractice claims while improving patient safety.

Debate on both sides examines the benefits and disadvantages of such a program. Many hospitals do not give physicians enough incentive to come forward. Even when errors are not egregious, a physician can end up with a pattern of making mistakes that can adversely affect his or her career. Whenever there is a payment on a medical malpractice claim, the information is logged into a national database that tracks doctors who jeopardize patients' safety.

However, this has to be balanced with the fact that many people would otherwise not have received any compensation for minor to moderate injuries at the hands of a physician. For many individuals, filing a medical malpractice claim for these errors would not be cost-effective. In addition, a CRP may provide some compensation to a patient whose condition may not have necessarily been an error but caused harm nonetheless.

Not surprisingly, some trepidation exists that any compensation paid under a CRP program could potentially shortchange a patient -- or a patient's family in the case of death -- if a Massachusetts hospital attempts to hurry a settlement. Fortunately, patients -- or their families -- that suffer serious injury or death at the hands of a physician or other hospital staff retain the right to commence and pursue a medical malpractice claim. No one should be rushed into taking a settlement without first having the opportunity to explore all of the options available to him or her.

Source: The Huffington Post, When It Comes to Liability and Patient Safety, What's Good for Hospitals Can Be Good for Patients, Michelle Mello, Feb. 13, 2014

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