It would seem that avoiding malpractice lawsuits for hospital negligence would be in the best interest of hospitals and patients but a new report released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests otherwise. The report, which was released in April of this year, states that hospitals where a patient experiences complications have a 330 percent higher profit margin than privately insured patients with no complications.

More medical errors means longer hospital stays, more follow up care, and even more medical procedures. According to the report, the average patient who had no complications resulted in $18,900 increase in revenue for the hospital. However, the average patient that experienced avoidable surgical complications or medical errors resulted in a $49,400 increase in revenue. With hospitals making more money on patients who require extended stays and additional treatment, there is no real incentive to be more cautious and actively prevent medical errors.

Luckily, a lot is being done to discourage hospital mistakes. With medical error reports easily available to the public online, the reputation of a hospital is at stake if too many patients experience complications that could have been prevented by the doctor or nurse. And ever since Dr. Ken Kizer coined the term “never events,” patient advocates have implemented outreach campaigns to inform patients of their rights in the event of medical malpractice. So it would seem that hospitals do actually have a lot to lose if they make a mistake but more can be done.

Private health insurance companies and Medicare are creating policies that would deny payment to health care providers if certain types of medical errors were to occur on the hospital’s part. More and more medical malpractice suits are being filed on behalf of patients who received poor, improper or inadequate treatment which could result in the hospital losing millions of dollars and receiving bad publicity. But the JAMA study does not include any of that data in it’s report. However, the fact that medical malpractice suits are incredibly difficult to win on behalf of the patient means that lawsuits might not be that much of a factor in hospital revenue.

The bottom line is that much more should be done to advocate for patients who have received poor, inadequate or improper treatment. 

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.