Infections are among the most prevalent sources of medical malpractice claims. Recently, a new reporting system has been proposed, and implemented in many states, to address this type of medical malpractice. While this reporting system does not eliminate malpractice deriving from preventable infections, it does greatly abate it. Ultimately, the system will benefit not only the individual patients, but also the medical care system as a whole. Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys have extensive experience with this type of tort.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that as many as eighty thousand patients die annually from infections that were obtained in hospitals. Although not all of these deaths are a result of medical malpractice, a large percentage of them are, and that is alarming. To remedy these seemingly preventable deaths, several large organizations, schools, and hospitals have taken swift measures.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement first started the reform to improve hospital procedures that attempt to limit the spread of preventable infections. Even though the medical community has known all different types of infections and their causes, this reform is groundbreaking because of the reporting system it has been able to institute.
The reporting system mandates hospitals to keep detailed records of the existence of infections that have manifested in their patients and the resulting injury. This information would then be catalogued and made available to the CDC and the public.
With the help of the Consumers Union, thirty states have enacted legislation that mirrors this reform, requiring all hospitals within those states to comply with this reporting system. Through the Affordable Care Act, Congress has contributed most of the funds for these new reporting systems. Although this reporting system has only been in effect for a very limited period of time, the CDC reports that hospitals that adopted this system have witnessed a sharp decline in death by infection.
In addition to the reporting system, this reform has also spawned the implementation of other preventative measures. One of them is the administration of additional antibiotics to patients immediately preceding their surgeries. I am sure you are wondering why these measures have taken so long to implement.
The answer is simple: the industry doesn’t want to raise the costs of an already unmanageable health care system. While the desire to keep costs down is important, their view that this reporting system and other similar measures will increase costs is mistaken. Currently, the CDC estimates that medical malpractice errors cost Medicare roughly $1.8 billion annually. Even though the upfront cost of medical care would be increased, the implementation of such preventative measures will actually lessen the aggregate costs by drastically reducing this immense figure above. As a result, implementation of this reform would ultimately benefit the health care system both medically and financially.
Despite the progress in infection prevention, by no means will this completely eradicate medical malpractice resulting from infections. This then raises the question, keeping in mind the effort to reduce the cost of medical care, of what are appropriate damage awards? Many have suggested placing caps on damage awards. Facially, this approach looks appealing. However, a broad award cap will not result in equitable awards, as all injuries play different roles for different individuals. Thus, a uniform approach like this is destined to result in unfairness. On the other hand, it could be very harmful to give juries the unrestricted liberty to assign any damage amount they feel is equitable.
While there is no perfect solution, a combination of these two approaches would be successful. It would consist of damage caps that are derived from a variety of factors and are not uniform to all people, but is individual to the specific person.
Unfortunately, medical malpractice will always be present in some capacity in our medical care system. It is important to contact a medical malpractice attorney if you have suffered such an injury at the fault of any hospital employee.