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Swedish medical errors prove ever more costly

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Swedish medical errors prove ever more costly
09:29 CET+01:00
The cost of paying for harm done to patients in the Swedish healthcare system has nearly doubled in the last decade, according to a new report.

Every day, 28 Swedes receive economic compensation for injuries suffered due to medical errors, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports. And the costs of such claims is rising.

Drawing on statistics from the Swedish Patient Insurance Scheme (Landstingens Ömsesidiga Försäkringsbolag – Löf), DN found that the cost of compensation claims due to medical errors has risen from 231 million ($34.2 million) to 420 million kronor ($62.5 million) between 2000 and 2010.

Mixed up test results, injuries suffered during childbirth, infections following surgery, and incorrect drug dosages are just a few of the medical errors that reveal it can be harmful to a patient's health to end up at a Swedish hospital.

The most common types of injuries for which patients receive economic compensation are orthopedic injures such as broken bones which don't heal properly. The next most common claims are surgical errors.

“Nerves which are cut,” Swedish Patient Insurance Scheme claims manager Jan Adrups told the TT news agency.

Another common mistake for which patients are compensated are infections, he added.

However, Adrups added that much of the cost increase over the last ten years is likely due to inflation.

And rule changes which went into effect at the start of the year are expected to result in a further rise in complaints.

“We're expected a certain increase by the end of the year,” Adrups told TT.

Many cases which currently go unreported may come to light under the new system, which requires that patients are always informed about their fight to file a complaint and seek compensation, Adrup explained.

Previously, doctors and nurses who committed medical errors received a warning from the Swedish Medical Responsibility Board (Hälso- och sjukvårdens ansvarsnämnd – HSAN).

The new system will attempt to explore why mistakes took place rather than issuing warnings and removing the risk of being shamed by one's colleagues is expected to result in more mistakes coming to light.

However, managers at HSAN have criticised the rule changes, which now places the responsibility for investigating medical error claims with the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), for further removing medical professionals from personal responsibility for their errors.

But healthcare unions believe the changes will help improve patient safety, as do representatives from the health board.

“It's clearly better when a patient doesn't have to point to exactly who made a mistake. It's enough to report the injury, than we can look into the cause,” health board oversight head Per-Anders Sunesson told DN.

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