Providers use malpractice data to identify common dangers

In an effort to improve healthcare quality, hospital leaders are increasingly referring back to malpractice claims to learn from their mistakes, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Providers and insurers, seeking to reduce the risk of costly payouts or medical errors, the nation's third-leading cause of death, are conducting studies of closed claims to determine potential trends. In the last year, for example, Crico, Harvard Medical School-affiliated providers' insurer, has studied primary care-associated risks and is now using the results to develop programs for improving diagnoses, follow-up care and patient referrals, according to the article.

Various analyses find common factors among malpractice claims across specialties, including diagnostic errors or poor technique, but the efforts are also pinning down specialty-specific pitfalls, such as shoulder dystocia, or a baby's shoulders becoming lodged in a mother's body during delivery, which was identified in nearly 900 obstetrics claims over a seven-year period. 

Providers are also using information from closed claims to improve patient education, according to the article. In the wake of an analysis that found orthopedic patients' lack of follow-up appointments or treatment plan adherence was a major injury factor, Ralph Gambardella, president of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, said his group is analyzing the effectiveness of mobile apps to help prepare patients.

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