Today, our medical malpractice lawyers discuss hospital transparency: a proven to improve patient care. The ultimate test for transparency came in Massachusetts, where Paul Levy, the newly-appointed CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess (one of three Harvard University Teaching Hospitals) decided to go public with his hospitals failings. His simple decision to be open with the public started a chain reaction that has led to safer hospitals statewide, legislation to protect patients, improvements across the board, and initiatives in other states inspired to live up to Massachusetts’ example.
It’s important to note what Levy’s efforts did not lead to: panic, higher health care costs, or an increase in medical malpractice suits – the reasons commonly given by hospitals for resisting transparency. Indeed, after adopting transparency, the hospitals of Massachusetts have not faced increased malpractice lawsuits. Instead, they have seen reduced malpractice, and consistent steps to improve further.
Levy’s efforts at reform began, in 2002, quite simply – with a blog frankly discussing hospital-acquired infections and injuries at his hospital. His blog, “Running a Hospital,” (now “Not Running a Hospital”) quickly gained attention, both positive — from the media and the general public — and negative — from others in the Boston medical community.
Levy’s efforts only escalated. At the end of 2006, he began publishing Beth Israel’s monthly central line catheter infection rates. As our medical malpractice attorneys have previously noted, such infections are virtually always preventable via such simple expedients as proper, consistent sanitation and handwashing. Yet, according to the CDC, each year 250,000 Americans suffer from such infections. Each infection costs around $25,000, and around one in four such infections are fatal.
A few months after beginning his own publication of this data, Levy began calling out other area hospitals in his blog, questioning why they could not also reveal such data. He also persuaded his hospital’s board to issue a pledge to wipe out preventable harm in their hospital by January of 2012.
The results have been phenomenal. Among other achievements since Beth Israel began its transparency program:
- Hospital mortality is down 2.5%, or about one fewer death for every forty patients in intensive care.
- Cases of ventilator-associated pneumonia, once common, have been eliminated.
As a culmination of Levy’s efforts, in 2008 Massachusetts law was changed to require the public reporting of certain hospital errors, including certain hospital-acquired infections and injuries. Again, there has been no increase in malpractice lawsuits. Instead, it has only led to increased patient safety.
As researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health have noted, openness consistently leads to safety advances. Indeed, when the outcomes of surgeries by individual heart surgeons became publicly available, many of the lowest-performing surgeons simply stopped practicing. As our medical malpractice lawyers have long been aware, openness is powerful.
We urge hospitals in our own state to follow Levy’s example and adopt policies of transparency and openness. And, whether they do or not, we urge our legislature to follow in Massachusetts’ example, and set tough disclosure standards, forcing hospitals to take action to stop preventable infections and injuries.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500