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When preventable medical errors occur as a result of healthcare provider negligence, it is critical that the negligent parties are held accountable for them. Accountability as a goal does not seek to brand providers for life. Providers are human and they will certainly make mistakes. However, holding them accountable for harmful medical malpractice is necessary both for the immediately affected patient's benefit and for the benefit of all the patients that will be treated by those providers down the road.

Some patient safety experts are now suggesting that the best possible way to respond to medical malpractice is by pairing accountability with learning opportunities for other healthcare providers. Once a case has been investigated, closed and the negligent provider has been held accountable, these cases can be used to teach other providers about how to avoid the preventable mistakes that led to the malpractice claim in the first place.

Hospitals already often engage in a similar practice within their own walls. However, some are suggesting that closed legal cases could be used more widely to teach physicians nationwide about how to avoid certain preventable mistakes and lapses in standards of patient care.

Some experts in New York are currently proposing the creation of a clearinghouse for anonymous closed medical malpractice cases to be used as teaching tools for physicians and other healthcare providers. This proposal and others like it may soon enable providers to learn from preventable tragedies and help to ensure that none like them occur in the future. It is certainly an idea worth considering for the benefit of patients everywhere.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, "Tapping medical malpractice cases for safety lessons," Terry Baynes, Apr. 11, 2013

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