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California health system reaps $1M in health insurance liability rebate

The Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System will receive $1,166,380 in dividends from its medical liability insurance provider, BETA Healthcare Group, for improving patient safety.

When BETA doesn't have to pay for malpractice lawsuits its hospitals – including SVMHS – get money back, creating a financial incentive for hospitals to avoid malpractice suits, according to a hospital spokesperson.

SVMHS is a public district hospital with 269 licensed acute care beds. Salinas Valley Memorial also works with an integrated network of affiliates to provide patient care throughout Monterey County, Calif.

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SVMHS recently implemented a BETA-sponsored OB-intensive patient safety program, which includes 24 hours of online education and training focused on electronic fetal monitoring and analysis, team communications strategies and emergency management in labor and delivery, a hospital statement said.

Because SVMHS demonstrated 100 percent compliance with all elements of the program, it received a 5 percent rate credit from BETA to reduce the hospital's healthcare professional liability coverage costs.

"BETA understands that patient safety drives sound risk management, which in turn leads to reduced claims frequency and severity," said Annie Herlik, vice president of risk management at BETA. "The program is a win-win for our member hospitals, physicians and medical teams and, most of all, for their patients."

SVMHS executives said they will reinvest a quarter of the dividend into additional risk management and safety measures with the goal of increasing future dividends, reducing operating costs and providing more affordable, quality care.

Other steps SVMHS is taking to improve patient safety and care include bar coding on medications, which reduces errors by verifying that the right medication is given to the right patient in the right dose at the right time. Reduced medication errors improve individual patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs by avoiding potentially dangerous drug interactions that can occur if medications are improperly administered.

SVMHS has also implemented a fast track in its emergency department. This improves patient flow through the ER, moving primary care and urgent care cases through as quickly and safely as possible so ER bed capacity is freed up for more serious cases, according to a spokesperson for the hospital. It also reduces patient wait time. With a fast track system, a physician or physician assistant can order diagnostic work for patients without waiting for the patients to be bedded in the ER.

"Delivering exceptional care with the highest level of patient safety is the driving goal of hospitals and medical staff leaders. Working together, we can successfully navigate the changing and challenging healthcare landscape and make patient safety and care the top priority," said Sam Downing, president and CEO of SVMHS and chairman of the BETA Healthcare Group.