Hospital Enforces Full Disclosure Policy

From: "\"Doc\" Bruce K. Melson" <>



Thursday June 28 09:39 PM EDT

Hospital Enforces Full Disclosure Policy

By John McKenzie ABCNEWS.comThe Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington,
Ky., has a strict and, until recently, unusual policy of admitting its
Under new patient safety standards that go into effect July 1, hospitals will
be required to inform patients when they have been the victim of medical
errors. Many institutions will be forced to revise their current policies,
but for at least one hospital, nothing will change.For over a decade, the
Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, KY has enforced a strict policy
of quickly and publicly admitting errors."We're a health care organization
that's supposed to be there to serve patient," says Chief of Staff Steve
Kraman. "It doesn't serve patients to hide from our mistakes."The medical
center began a revolutionary change in the way it responded to suspicious
injury or death after suffering two lawsuits in 1986 that cost the hospital
over $1.5 million.Now, the hospital's policy is to launch its own
investigation, questioning doctors and nurses, and reviewing files. When a
serious error has been identified, hospital administrators promptly telephone
the patient, or next of kin, admitting the mistake and offering to review the
case in detail. They provide the necessary claim forms, and often help
families file them. They even encourage the families to get a lawyer, and
offer them prompt compensation for their loss."Compensation is always
negotiable," says Ginny Hamm, the hospital's lawyer. "And we do find from
experience that it helps to reduce anger and complainants seem to go away
much more satisfied."Honesty Is PolicyLexington, VA gave Sandy Reynolds's
father the wrong medication, resulting in his death."I was ready for a huge
fight," Reynolds says. "No matter what it took, I was going to make the
hospital pay. But when they apologized and admitted they did wrong, what are
you going to fight for?"Being open and honest about medical mistakes has not
only been good for the hospital's image, it's been good for its bottom line.
The hospital is settling more claims, for much less money. The average
settlement at Lexington, VA is $15,000, compared to the VA national average
$98,000. No one knows if the "full disclosure policy" has resulted in fewer
mistakes, but it's gone a long way in helping patients and families suffering
the effects of those mistakes. [Non-text portions of this message have been


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