With the ongoing review into complaints handling within the NHS, it is worth looking at how other healthcare bodies across the world handle medical errors, unintended outcomes, clinical problems and near-misses.
And while the University of Michigan Health System is far from perfect, a review in healthcare journal Milbank Quarterly said its response to these issues is a model that other healthcare facilities should copy.
The ‘Michigan Model’ is based on three principles, often shortened as DA&O, or ‘disclose, apologise and offer’:
– Provide medical negligence compensation fairly and quickly when people are injured due to inappropriate care
– Provide support to staff when the healthcare provided is deemed reasonable
– Learn from patient complaints and experiences to reduce the number of injuries and medical negligence claims
This has been the way the University of Michigan Health System has dealt with problems for the last decade, and in this time, the overall cost of liability has fallen, the number of new medical negligence claims received every months is on a constant decline, potential and valid clinical negligence claims are reaching their resolution faster than ever before, and the university is managing to minimise the amount of litigation it deals with.
Researchers interviewed 37 physicians, attorneys, hospital executives, insurers, public policymakers and other relevant parties in Massachusetts, finding that the general view of people is that the Michigan Model has a huge amount of potential to improve patient safety and reduce the liability of healthcare service providers in medical negligence claims.
Problems integrating the Michigan Model
The study also indicated that specialists from all kinds of backgrounds predict that there could be problems implementing the Michigan Model in other healthcare systems. In the NHS, there are concerns that a culture of secrecy, a reluctance for staff to engage in whistleblowing and a dismissive attitude to complaints could make implementing this initiative in the UK more difficult.
However, the researchers concluded that DA&O could not only limit a healthcare service’s liability costs, but would also enhance patients’ ability to claim medical compensation, connect liability in clinical negligence claims with improved patient safety, create additional transparency in issues relating to medical error, increase patient advocacy and support organisation’s accountability.
These benefits seem very close to what the UK wishes to achieve with its complaints handling revolution, indicating that Michigan could be a key place for analysis if the UK is to achieve its goal of improving standards of patient safety within the NHS.
People who have suffered personal injuries due to the negligence of healthcare providers should always have the right to claim medical negligence compensation, but should also know that the errors that led to their injuries have been dealt with and are learned from.
This would not only have benefits for NHS users, but also for the NHS itself, helping it develop effective strategies for improvement and prevent problems from recurring indefinitely.
Stacey Aston has spent years looking into accident at work compensation cases and other forms of mistreatment and poor service in the healthcare setting for a team of solicitors in London.