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Do hospitals benefit from making surgical errors?

According to a study conducted by researchers from the Boston Consulting Group, Harvard’s colleges of medicine and public health, and several other companies, insurers unintentionally reward hospitals that make surgical errors.

The study notes the reason for this is the insurance companies compensate these hospitals for the additional support, care, and longer stays of patients that suffer increased complications that might have been prevented during surgery. The study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers studied the records of over 34,000 people who underwent surgical procedures in 2010. Over 1,800 of these patients experienced problems resulting from the surgeries: problems that might have been easily prevented.

The complications due to surgical errors included pneumonia, blood clots, and infected cuts. After analyzing the costs to insurance companies, the researchers discovered that hospitals tend to profit an average of $30,500 more when treating patients with complications than without.

Analyzing this study, you can make the inference that hospitals actually tend to profit from surgical complications, even though the conductors of the study stated that they do not mean to say that hospitals are intentionally making these errors. 

However, they did conclude, as we all might, that insurers should not pay hospitals when these complications do occur. They also stated that hospitals that perform successful surgeries should be rewarded with additional compensation.

The researchers suggested that hospitals should have to publish their surgical error rates so patients in Louisiana and around the country will know which hospitals they may want to avoid when undergoing treatment. This approach could force hospitals with high complication rates to improve conditions, regardless of cost, so that they can stay in business.

Source: Herald Tribune Health, “Study: Hospitals profit from surgical errors,” Denise Grady, April 29, 2013

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