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Question from Road: Prior Doc Messed Up?

Tue, May 22, 2012

Question from Road: Prior Doc Messed Up?

We are starting to get some version of the following question quite frequently from front-line docs and nurses:

"So, I had a patient come in the other day…he/she had a procedure performed by another clinician, patient is not happy with the outcome, and now he/she wants me to say the doc before had made a mistake, committed malpractice, etc.  What do I say or do?"

Or another version of the question is….

"I saw a patient today who had a procedure performed by another doctor, and I just know that doctor screwed up and really hurt this patient.   Should I tell the patient that her prior doctor committed malpractice?"

At Sorry Works!, we are anti-jousting, anti-speculation.  Only say what you when know it.   Empathize quickly, but be slow to admit fault until you are 100% sure, or in this case, are 100% sure that a colleague screwed up.

The trouble with these questions is the doc whom is now treating patient was not involved in the prior care...wasn't sitting in the exam room, didn't know the condition of the patient prior to the first procedure, hear what the clinician or patient had to say to each other, doesn't know how compliant the patient was following the doctor's instructions, and a thousand other variables.  So, even if you have a strong hunch a colleague screwed up, very difficult to be 100% sure, isn’t it?  Trouble is when you start using words like "error" or "malpractice" to describe another colleague's care, the die is cast for the patient or family - they will never believe otherwise, no matter what the review shows or what their own lawyer or the judge has to say.  It's an awful prison for everybody.

So, I think the proper way to handle these situations is to again empathize, "I'm sorry you are not happy with the outcome," and encourage the patient/family to go back to the prior doctor with questions.  Give them intelligent questions to ask like you would for your own family member.  It's the only fair thing to do for all sides.  Then, transition the discussion to what you can do for them right now, medically and otherwise.

Need help with your disclosure efforts? Need help training your staff? Give Sorry Works! a call at 618-559-8168 or e-mail




Doug Wojcieszak, Founder, Sorry Works!