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Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Medscape Survey: Docs Don't Think "Sorry" Will Stop Lawsuits?

medscapeMedscape recently published a survey of physicians -- mostly oncologists -- concerning litigation. The survey asked numerous questions about lawsuits, litigation exposure, plaintiff's lawyers, etc. Here is what Medscape said about their survey: "Medscape surveyed nearly 4000 physicians, including oncologists, to find out whether and why they were sued for malpractice; how any lawsuit affected their careers and patient-care decisions; and what these doctors suggest to avoid or reduce the number of lawsuits. The report also addresses long-term effects--emotional and financial--of malpractice suits on oncologists. Note that numbers in charts are rounded in this report, and so sums described in the text may not be consistent."

The results? Well, you can read the result here. Three slides stuck out at me....when asked the best ways to prevent lawsuits (slide 9), 77% said medical screening panels, 57% caps on damages (surprise!), 45% health courts, and 37% no contingency fees for personal injury lawyers. Hmm....all those years of tort reform and blaming patients, families, and lawyers continues to pay dividends!

Yet, slide 7 says 70%+ of physicians surveyed felt their hospital was doing nothing or not enough to prevent lawsuits.

However, slide 24 shows 80% to 90% of physicians believe "sorry" would not prevent a lawsuit.

One of the criticisms I have heard about disclosure is that not enough docs and nurses are accepting the idea, there is not enough uptake among medical staff, clinicians don't believe apology will work, etc. When I read the slide about 80 to 90 percent of physicians not believing sorry will have any impact on lawsuits my reaction was 80 to 90 percent of physicians -- and nurses -- have not been trained on disclosure and apology! Clinicians simply don't understand the concept, including how and why it works.  I personally know many clinicians still don't understand that apology and disclosure programs can resolve cases involving serious financial and emotional harm without litigation.

If Medscape had done their job, they would have asked a follow up question: Have you received disclosure and apology training?

Question: Do we really expect clinicians to learn about disclosure through osmosis? It will just happen? Maybe docs will read a paper or two, hear some idle chatter in the doctor's longue, and, wallah, become converts?! These people have to be trained....they weren't trained in medical or nursing school, most have not received CME/CEU training on the concept, and instead, they have been bombarded with drivel about don't say sorry, abandon the family post-event, lawyers are evil, and we need tort reform.

Sorry, folks...but it's gonna take some work. The good news is the payoff/ROI is there as far as litigation reduction, quality improvements, staff retention etc, if you work the process. When I do Grand Rounds seminars for physicians and nurses, it's like an awakening for the audience. "Where was this 20 years ago?" and "Why didn't I learn this in medical or nursing school?" are the questions/statements I hear.

To help train front-line clinicians, we have literally sold thousands of copies of the Little Book of Empathy. It's a quick read for even the busiest doc or nurse, and it will give them the baseline education they need for disclosure and apology. The price starts at just $9.99 per copy, and goes down from there depending on volume. To order the Little Book of Empathy, click here.

We also have the Sorry Works! Tool Kit which is great for risk, claims, legal, and c-suite....the Tool Kit, which now includes the Disclosure Documentary, will help you design a program to train your people and make disclosure part of your culture. To order the Tool Kit, click here.

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