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Federal Government Reinstates Physician Database, But Medicare Has Better Solution

Earlier this month, our Chicago personal injury lawyers reflected on the news that the federal government had eliminated public access to an online federal database of medical malpractice claims and damages against doctors. Now, however, the government has reopened the website with constraints that prohibit users to identify physicians against whom claims have been made.

According to a report by MSNBC, The Department of Health and Human Services reinstated the public database in such a way that allows members of the public to access the information without any identifying details about the physicians against whom claims were made.

However, there may be a solution for patients who want to know the truth about their health care providers before deciding who to trust to provide them with care. Medicare has recently begun publishing patient safety ratings for thousands of hospitals across the country. Although the data was originally complied as a way for Medicare to determine which hospitals should receive less funding based on rates of surgical complications, infections, medical mistakes, and avoidable deaths. However, the information has found a convenient and extremely beneficial second use; consumers can now use the data to evaluate hospitals.

The information – available on Medicare’s Hospital Compare Website – evaluates hospitals based on reports of specific medical errors with the ultimate aim of improving patient safety; hospitals deemed to be of the lowest quality will be in danger of losing up to 2% of Medicare reimbursements, starting in October of 2012. The financial incentive gives hospitals an extra reason to use the utmost care in treating patients. Medicare is using the data from each hospital and comparing it not national averages for complications and injuries that occur in hospitals to determine how each hospital is performing.

Patient safety advocates have long been in favor of making this type of information available to the public. If patients are able to check the safety statistics of hospitals, they may be able to avoid going to hospitals that have higher rates of patient-suffered harm. As a result, rates of patient injuries may decline.

Although hospitals and healthcare providers have expressed concern over the way that Medicare is measuring the mishaps that occur in hospitals, the simple point still stands that consumers are getting more information. Even if Medicare’s gauge isn’t perfect (and no reason to think it is otherwise flawed), all hospitals are measured with the same method of assessment, so as compared to one another, the assessment should give a fair understanding of which hospitals are better than others.

Medical errors are very serious. Our Illinois personal injury attorneys have handled numerous cases involving medical malpractice injuries, and have the knowledge and experience to handle even the most complex cases. In fact, our attorneys won a $17.7 million medical malpractice settlement for a former police officer who suffered a life-altering brain injury due to nursing staff negligence at a Chicago hospital.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of negligence on the part of a healthcare provider or hospital, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries under the law.

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