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How can claim trends help victims of medical malpractice?

Going to the doctor for any procedure can be a very frightening experience for people across Atlanta. We don't always know what to expect and there may be significant health risks to worry about. In many cases, surgeries and other procedures are successful and go according to plan. But when they do not, patients can become victims of a serious or fatal illness or injury.

One of the options that patients and their families have in the event of medical malpractice is to take legal action against a doctor or hospital. Some people may look unfavorably on these types of lawsuits, claiming that they negatively impact patient safety. However, according to a national survey of healthcare professionals and hospital risk managers, legal claims can positively impact victims of medical malpractice and identify concerns in a facility to prevent other patients from injury or illness stemming from a medical error.

When a patient or a patient's family files a claim after a mistake has jeopardized someone's health or safety, that claim serves as a record of the incident. If and when a hospital notices that there are many similar claims, they can take steps to identify what might be a larger problem.

In some cases, for example, a number of claims may have been filed against one doctor in particular. This may raise concerns regarding that doctor's training, performance or communication. Rather than ignore the problem or take ineffective approaches to resolving these issues, hospitals can pinpoint the causes of the doctor's errors and find ways to assist him or her in improving specific  skills to avoid future mistakes.

In other cases, lawsuits can highlight widespread issues at a hospital. There may problems with their reporting systems, errors in databases or inconsistent training practices. These vulnerabilities can also be addressed more effectively once a trend is identified. 

Medical malpractice lawsuits can do much more than get victims the financial compensation they may deserve. They can also serve as a record of the error, which can then be tracked by hospitals. If a worrisome trend emerges as a result of these claims, it can be easier to identify effective resolutions to prevent others from being victims of a preventable medical error. 

Source: "A Dose of Reality for Medical Malpractice Reform," Joanna C. Schwartz, 2013

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