Providers urged to apologize for errors

A federal agency is recommending that doctors and hospitals take a new approach to handling medical errors.

Patients in Florida have every reason to want to make sure that the quality of health care that they receive is high. The ability to trust in a doctor's decisions and actions or that of any other medical provider should be a basic right. However, mistakes can and do happen - maybe even more often that some people would ever know.

Medical errors are killing people

In fact, there is some research from Johns Hopkins University that MedCity News reports that more than 250,000 people in the United States die every year due to mistakes made by the very people who are supposed to protect and heal them.

These deaths may result from any number of types of situations. A patient may be misdiagnosed and therefore receive the incorrect treatment. Another person may be told that there is nothing wrong with him or her and then receive no treatment when treatment is necessary. Problems can also happen during treatment or surgeries that not only fail to address the original problem but cause all-new and possibly even worse problems.

Options for patients have been limited

Whatever the situation, patients have by and large had a difficult time getting the trust about their conditions. Individual practitioners and facilities alike have often remained very tight-lipped about medical errors. One study even looked at a physician's reluctance to disclose information about mistakes .

A new approach may be on the horizon

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has developed what it calls the Communication and Optimal Resolution toolkit. FierceHealthcare indicates that this toolkit is meant to guide providers through the process of apologizing and even offering information about a medical error instead of avoiding conversation about it.

While this may at first sound positive, it is something that patients should think carefully about. Certainly it is positive if patients can have better access to information about their own health and cases. However, understanding the motivation behind this change is important.

Some sources suggest that improved patient safety is the reason for the promotion of apologies by medical professionals. Others, however, point to a reduction in costs often associated with litigation as the primary motivator.

Patients should be the focus

If Florida residents are to receive apologies from hospitals, doctors or nurses, that may be a step forward. However, it is important for people to remember that the right to pursue compensation after a medical mistake occurs is theirs. Talking to an attorney when these situations arise is recommended for help in making sure that the patient's rights are properly protected.