Hospitals are rarely associated with joyous occasions other than babies being born.
Generally patients are admitted because something is wrong. Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t go as planned.
Sometimes the experience of sorting out what exactly happened can be as traumatic as the procedure itself. In some cases, family members are left to pick up the pieces after a loved one dies.
It is estimated that about 440,000 people die annually due to preventable hospital error. This statistic makes medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States.
For decades, many hospitals employed a 'deny and defend' approach backed by powerful litigation teams.
Recently, a handful of hospitals around the country are using a reverse tactic to dealing the medical errors.
This new method is more open and communicative that focuses on finding out what went wrong and apologizing if the hospital is at fault. When compensation is warranted, it is also part of the deal.
Stanford University Hospital has used the program Process for Early Assessment and Resolution Learning for the past seven years. PEARL is a means to investigate all matters involving “concerning outcomes”
Initially the program focused on personal and financial loss, but it is really about learning from unexpected situations. The overarching goal is to make patients whole and not shortchange them.
The program encompasses the entire Stanford Healthcare system, including its diagnostic and rehabilitation cents, the two hospitals and more than 3,000 physicians.
Patients that elect to use the PEARL process do not give up their right to sue the hospital if they do not agree with the outcome.
Patients, nurses and doctors are all encouraged to report an issue if they believe it is warranted in a medical care situation. Once a PEARL file is opened, an internal evaluation is conducted and then sent to an independent outside medical expert for analysis. If the findings are not consistent, additional expertise is pursued.
Throughout the process, a patient liaison is in contact with the patient and provides updates along the way. The staff also have a support system.
According to Stanford, the number of malpractice suits has dropped by 50%, defense cost has dropped by 24% and indemnity paid has dropped by 27%.
Stanford is one of few hospitals across the country that has adopted a more transparent form of communication in order to combat errors.