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Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Question from Road: Disclosure = ATM Machine?

Tue, May 1, 2012

Question from the Road: Disclosure = ATM Machine?

I was recently talking with a risk manager who shared the following story/statement with me:

"We had a disclosure case that was just awful.  The patient just kept coming back to the hospital again, and again, and again, each time asking for more money and other favors.  First he needed this paid for, then that...pretty soon our CEO felt like an ATM machine.  The case cost us a fortune.  It was awful."

Let's get something straight….post-event you are empathetic, compassionate, honest, and, above all else, fair in your dealings...including financial dealings.  But you are not an ATM machine!  Fairness in financial dealings runs both ways.

Look, it's actually a rather straight forward process to determine the value of a case.  We’ve got lots of data out there to set the value of med-mal cases.  And, yes, disclosure cases often settle for lower value because a) the anger and revenge are removed in most instances , b) resolutions can involve much more than money, and c) much lower transaction costs.  Now, we always stress the importance of talking with the patient/family to learn exactly how their lives have changed post-event so you can determine the best ways to help them, what is going to be most meaningful to them, etc.  Sure, sometimes money is very important, other times, not so much.  Sometimes the emotional solutions can have more value to the patient/family.  You just have to see, craft a fair resolution, and then get a signed release.   You are not a bottomless pit of money!  And remember who is writing this e-newsletter...the guy who lost a brother to medical errors.  I know - and you know - that disclosure can only work if it is fair for all sides.  The financial end has to be fair for both sides too.

If a person has unrealistic expectations, you continue communicating with them....try to learn where they are coming from, and maybe their demands have some solid reasoning.  If not, then you stick to your guns…you continue to apologize and say, "Again, we are sorry we made this mistake which led to the death of your family member, and this is what we believe is fair for this case."  If they want to litigate, tell your counsel to argue the case on the damages.

Now, make sure your offer is truly fair!  If you develop a reputation of low-balling and truly ripping off people, word will get out and patients and families will learn not to talk with your organization post-event. It’s gotta to be fair…and then be fair to yourself and your colleagues when a patient/family does try to turn you into an ATM machine by simply saying "I'm sorry....we can't do that."

Want to learn more about Sorry Works?  Perhaps a Sorry Works! presentation is right for your and your staff?  Or maybe you need some disclosure consulting?  Call 618-559-8168 or e-mail today.



DougWojcieszak , Founder, Sorry Works!