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Doctors, Nurses Who Discuss Errors Help Reduce Hospital Deaths, Study Says


In medical settings, errors can take many forms – from minor mishaps that cause little more than an inconvenience to grave lapses in communication, diagnostics, or acceptable care that lead to the most devastating of consequences. As evidenced by many wrongful death lawsuits filed by families who claim malpractice, errors with fatal repercussions are often systemic, pre-existing, and poorly addressed.

As any medical malpractice attorney will note, proper policies and protocol are crucial to keeping patients safe. Among these policies, some of the most important focus on communication and coordination. According to a recent study, that’s not just a theory applied broadly by various businesses – it’s a tactic that may very well have a targeted impact on hospital malpractice and patient deaths.

Study Suggests Link Between Openness & Lower Hospital Mortality

The study, recently published in the medical journal Health Affairs, focused on hospitals’ “culture of openness” and its impact on mortality rates. Here are a few details about the study.

  • Researchers from Bocconi University and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine defined hospital openness as any environment in which doctors, nurses, and medical staff feel free to speak openly if they believe something may have adverse effects on patient health, and to question those in positions of authority – both of which have been previously associated with positive patient outcomes.
  • After analyzing hospital mortality data and hospital openness scores of nearly 140 providers in England, researchers highlighted two positive findings: (1) creating a culture of openness resulted in lower mortality rates; a 1-point increase in openness scores were linked to a 6.5% mortality rate decrease. (2) Openness rates among hospitals surveyed by researchers increased during the study’s period (2012-2014).

According to researchers, the study’s findings revealed that lower mortality rates and improved quality of care were drive in part by open hospitals’ higher responsiveness. That includes the willingness to create and adjust procedures for reporting errors, near-misses, and incidents in real-time, and the willingness to accept responsibility communally. It further suggests hospitals which stifle openness among staff, operate with rigid hierarchies, and apportion blame upon others should re-evaluate their staff environment to improve patient outcomes.

Medical Errors & Medical Malpractice

The study’s results are reassuring, and they represent a common sense approach to placing patient health and collaborative work environments at the forefront of hospital policies. As our legal team at Levinson Axelrod, P.A. has seen, hospitals and providers that fail to do so often fail to provide acceptable care at critical times – a misstep that can injure or kill patients, and result in liability for victims’ damages.

If you have questions about a potential claim, Levinson Axelrod, P.A. is here to help. Our attorneys handle a range of medical malpractice cases – from hospital negligence and failures to diagnose to serious or fatal injuries caused by surgical errors and anesthesia accidents. Call (732) 440-3089 or contact us online to discuss your rights and options.

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