Could transparency and candor reduce medical malpractice rates?

Medical malpractice can result in serious injuries or even death.

Medical errors are one of the leading causes of wrongful death across America. Studies have shown that tens of thousands of preventable deaths occur each year because of medical negligence, and hundreds of thousands of patients find themselves on the receiving end of prescription errors, surgical errors, misdiagnosis and other potentially fatal mistakes.

Several new initiatives, supported by patient safety watchdog organizations like the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Consumer's Union Safe Patient Project - as well as by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) - aim to lower rates of medical mistakes by increasing transparency and more openly discussing the issue.

Transparency in hospital inspections

The CMS recently proposed rules that would require hospital inspection records, hidden from view for years and often difficult to discover even in the midst of pending malpractice cases, to be made public. No sensitive patient information would be compromised with the release of inspection reports, but it would give an overview of incidents of medical negligence, mistakes, errors and instances of non-compliance with state or federal regulations governing health care providers.

The action by CMS comes on the heels of a 2016 report finding disturbing loopholes and deficiencies in error reporting and malpractice when private accreditation agencies are responsible for hospital inspections. Some hospitals were given a "passing grade" mere days or weeks before surprise government assessments revealed systemic flaws and failings that could easily compromise patient safety.

Report information is already available for nursing homes and residential care facilities, as is limited hospital inspection data, but many private accreditation companies have resisted making their inspection records public. Among them is the Joint Commission, the largest and most powerful private health care accreditation provider in the country.

CANDOR in malpractice cases

Another initiative designed to decrease the rate of medical negligence across America is already being piloted in several cities. This campaign, which goes by the acronym CANDOR (which stands for "Communication and Optimal Resolution"), makes the process of addressing medical errors simpler and more open for everyone involved. Notably, it requires medical providers to accept their role in the matter, offering an explanation and an apology as soon as possible after the mistakes are discovered.

The CANDOR initiative also stresses quick, mutually workable solutions and settlements when errors have occurred. It aims to create a culture shift throughout the industry, transitioning from a historic "circling the wagons" every time medical malpractice is suspected to openness and accountability.

In places where CANDOR has been piloted, serious errors have decreased, patient satisfaction has increased and the number of litigated medical malpractice cases has dropped.

Seeking help if you're a victim of medical malpractice

For now, the CMS' rules are still in their infancy, and the CANDOR method is only in a few select cities and hospital systems. It is hopeful that each of these programs could reduce the number of serious medical mistakes, but only time will tell. In the meantime, there are hundreds of thousands of injuries and deaths annually because of the negligence of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care providers. If you or someone you love has been a victim of medical malpractice, you have legal rights. Speak with an experienced personal injury attorney like those at the Worcester-based Law Offices of Joseph J. Cariglia, P.C. to learn more. Call them today at 866-491-6561 or send an email to schedule a consultation.