Mass. Docs Eye New Approach To Malpractice Claims

Three major hospitals in Massachusetts are launching an experiment aimed at reducing costly malpractice lawsuits and encouraging doctors to acknowledge medical errors.

The Massachusetts Medical Society is calling the initiative Disclosure, Apology and Offer.

The program calls for hospitals to disclose to patients and promptly investigate possible mistakes. If the hospital determines it was at fault, it would make an apology and offer financial compensation.

Patients could still sue if they consider the offer inadequate.

The approach will be tried at Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Baystate Medical Center, along with four smaller affiliates of Beth Israel and Baystate.

Kenneth Sands, the senior vice president for health care quality at Beth Israel, says this program works to benefit patients and hospitals at the same time.

"The thing that excites me with this project is not necessarily the issue of saving costs," Sands said, "but the opportunity to have more honest conversations between patients and physicians and to be more fare and timely with compensation."

The medical society says it hopes the program will help discourage so-called "defensive medicine" - costly and often unnecessary tests or procedures ordered by doctors wary of being sued by their patients.

With reporting from the Associated Press and the WBUR newsroom.

This article was originally published on April 18, 2012.


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