Hospitals see financial benefit from surgical complications

Many people get nervous at the thought of going into the hospital. They are aware that even routine surgeries carry risks. People trust that their doctors are doing all in their power to make surgeries go smoothly. Patients rarely think that surgical complications may actually benefit hospitals. However, a study published in April 2013 in the Journal of American Medicine revealed that hospitals profit from surgical errors, which hinders efforts to make health care better.

Monetary gain from mistakes

Researchers from the Boston Consulting Group, Harvard's schools of medicine and public health, and Texas Health Resources collaborated on the study to clarify the impact of surgical complications on hospital finances. The study's authors analyzed hospital records for 34,256 patients who had surgery at one of the 12 hospitals controlled by Texas Health Resources. They found 1,820 patients had suffered from preventable surgical complications such as pneumonia, blood clots and infections. The median length of those patients' hospital stays was four times as long as patients who did not suffer complications, at 14 days.

Hospital revenue from patients with surgical complications averaged $30,500 more than other patients, at $49,400 compared to $18,900. Researchers discovered patients with private health insurance paid more when they had surgical complications than patients with Medicaid or Medicare and those who paid out of pocket.

No incentive to improve care

The study's authors were quick to note that they were not arguing that hospitals were making mistakes in order to make money. However, they noted that the current payment system offers little incentive to hospitals to improve the quality of care they offer. In fact, hospitals may end up losing money if they make improvements.

Researchers suggested that all health insurance companies could facilitate reform in hospitals by refusing to compensate health care providers who offer substandard care, similar to the policies that Medicare and some other payors have adopted. Researchers also proposed offering bonuses for hospitals that consistently provide superior care. The study's authors also advocate a mandatory reporting system for hospitals to disclose complication rates. They believe that patients will avoid hospitals with a large number of errors, forcing those hospitals to improve.

Speak with an attorney

Patients put their lives in the hands of health care providers when they check in to hospitals. Hospitals have a responsibility to their patients to reduce the risks that patients face. When they fail to meet their duty, they need to be held accountable. If you have suffered as a result of a health care provider's error, seek the assistance of a seasoned medical malpractice lawyer with a proven record of successfully handling these complex cases.