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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

This sounds insane, and it is: Refusing payment for hospital drug errors

On Feb. 14, the Boston Globe described a study by my esteemed colleague Dr. David Bates that revealed that one in ten patients had serious preventable drug errors during their treatment at six selected community hospitals in Massachusetts.

Today the Globe published my letter in response, under the heading "Put hospitals on path to improvement:"

To the Editor:
The article is shocking. Adding insult to all these injuries is the fact that patients pay for these errors. Health insurers pay the hospitals as billed, and insurers build in all the costs when they set our insurance premiums.

The most powerful thing we can do as patients is to urge our insurers not to pay for hospital errors that we suffer. Insurers could withhold payment to the hospital, which would send the hospital the right message. Otherwise, given the reimbursement system, hospitals could benefit financially for additional days of hospital care that were incurred because of an error. (This sounds insane, and it is, as I know all too well from my work in patient safety.)

Consumers must demand safer hospital care. Strangely, this could be the best way to get it.

Browse for similar stories in our index at the very bottom of this page, or read a story on pending legislation to report and reduce hospital errors.

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