According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hospital profits increase by thousands of dollars when surgical errors are made. The increase in profits stems from the additional care provided as a consequence of surgical complications, many of which could be prevented. The problem is that, as a result of the fee-for-service health care reimbursement model, hospitals are essentially rewarded when surgical complications occur. Conversely, efforts to reduce surgical errors lack strong financial incentives.
The results of the study are especially thought-provoking considering that health care errors and complications have actually increased during the last ten years. Although the study does not postulate that health care providers are causing errors deliberately, its authors do believe that the payment structure currently in place must change. Fortunately, attempts to make errors and complications less profitable are slowly being implemented. For example, Medicare has announced a program to cut hospital payments when a significant number of patients must be readmitted within 30 days of receiving care.
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