Study: Hospitals actually profit from surgical errors

We came across a rather alarming story in the New York Times last week that we wanted to call your attention to.

The story concerned a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That study found that hospitals actually wind up profiting economically from surgical mistakes because insurance companies pay for longer stays and follow-up care that would not have been necessary had the surgery been performed properly in the first place.

The study authors said in order to change this, the economic model of health care in the U.S. needs to be altered to stop proving a de facto monetary incentive for providing poor care. A spokeswoman for a trade group representing insurance companies said from her group’s perspective, doctors and therefore hospitals are still making the most money by pursuing a quality-over-quantity approach; the more surgeries they perform, the more money they make, regardless of how well those surgeries turn out.

Now, we need to be clear about one thing — the authors explicitly wrote that there is no indication hospitals are deliberately making mistakes to earn more money. Rather, the issue seems to be that there is no financial penalty for providing substandard care (in fact, it’s the opposite).

Even so, the results of this study strike us as very problematic. We need to discourage patient harm in every way possible, and the fact that there is not enough of an economic “sting,” so to speak, when a surgical error occurs is a glaring problem that must be addressed post-haste.

Source: New York Times, “Hospitals Profit From Surgical Errors, Study Finds,” Denise Grady, April 16, 2013

•· A visit to the Medical Malpractice portion of our website may prove to be informative.

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