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Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Gag Order/Confidentiality Project from Sorry Works! -- need your opinion

gagIn last week's Sorry Works! e-blast about the toddler dying during a dental procedure, there was a quote from a dental professor claiming that most malpractice settlements have gag orders or confidentiality clauses. Here is the quote: "When there are malpractice suits, settlements often include a gag order that prohibits plaintiffs from talking about it, according to Dr. Joel Weaver, a dentist anesthesiologist and emeritus professor of the Ohio State University Medical Center. This touched a nerve with some readers, and, to be frank, I have heard numerous complaints about this topic over the last eleven years from both clinicians and consumers. Both sides basically saying the same thing, namely how can medicine improve and learn from events if we don't talk about lawsuits and closed claims? Many clinicians tell me they see or hear about adverse events, but then the lawyers sweep in, everybody clams up, and they (the clinicians) never find out what happened with a particular case. I have had countless nursing managers and front-line physicians state that cases literally disappear into a black hole.

How can we expect medicine to improve with such behavior?

Look, some estimates peg medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind cancer and heart disease.  When it comes to cancer and heart disease we can't -- rightly -- stop talking about these villains. There are countless news stories and books about life and death with cancer or heart disease from the perspective of patients, families, and clinicians. There are Facebook pages, fundraisers, rallies, t-shirts, etc, etc.  Lots of learning and support going on.   But medical errors?  Eh, shove it under the rug!

I want Sorry Works! to work on this issue. Now, I do NOT envision lobbying for passage of laws, or pushing for regulations to be changed. In fact, I don't want anything to do with our dysfunctional political system --- just look at the Presidential primaries. Sorry Works! has been successful over the years because we have completely side-stepped politics and, instead, focused on education and awareness which has shown healthcare professionals they can fix the malpractice crisis on their own with disclosure. You don't need political help (including so-called "apology laws") to build a successful disclosure program.  It's a message that has empowered people --- you can fix your own problems!   We have shown healthcare, insurance, and legal professionals why disclosure not only makes ethical sense, but also economic sense, and then we have given them practical guidance and step-by-step instructions on how to start their own disclosure programs.  I intend to do the same with gag order/confidentiality issue...show people why it is in their own best interest to change their behavior.

Here is where you come in: What are the arguments for maintaining the status quo? Why do lawyers and executives from hospitals and insurers insist on gag orders or confidentiality clauses? And really important question: How often are gag orders or confidentiality clauses inserted in settlements? Is this more urban legend than fact? Is this the monster under my six-year old's bed, or is this a real problem?  Please share your thoughts with me by e-mailing doug@sorryworks.net or calling 618-559-8168. Your answers will be completely confidential.

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