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Do hospitals profit from surgery errors?

Patient safety advocates have been urging hospitals to improve their surgical procedures and practices to reduce the risk of surgical errors. Now, a new study may show why hospitals don't seem as worried about preventing surgical errors from happening. 

A new study found that hospitals actually profit from surgical errors because insurance companies end up paying for longer stays in the hospital that require extra treatment. Researchers analyzed surgical patients in 2010 and found that when a surgical error occurred, the patient not only spent more time in the hospital but the patient's insurance company ended up paying a lot more for their care. 

The study reported that when a surgical patient's hospital stay increased to 14 days, hospitals were able to make an additional $30,500 more in profits compared to surgical patients who did not suffer from an error or complication. The study also found that patients with private insurance plans paid more for complications resulting from errors compared to patients with Medicare or Medicaid. 

While the researchers said that hospitals are not intentionally committing errors to make more money, the finding that hospitals make more of a profit after a surgical error is still concerning for patients. The researchers said that hospitals and insurance companies should change their payment system and stop rewarding hospitals who have poor patient care to help decrease surgical errors. 

The researchers suggested that insurance companies could start rewarding hospitals that provide excellent patient care as an incentive to try and prevent all types of mistakes, including surgical errors. They also recommended that hospitals be required to disclose the rate of errors and complications because it would keep patients informed and force hospitals to improve their care. 

Source: The New York Times, "Study: Hospitals profit from surgical errors," Denise Grady, April 29, 2013

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