How Should Docs Stay Connected Post-Event, And For How Long?
When dealing with an adverse event, my standard advice to healthcare professionals is to empathize with the family ("sorry this happened"), promise a review, address immediate needs (phone calls, minister, food, transportation, etc), and then before the discussion closes set the next meeting. Then, I encourage healthcare professionals to work hard to stay connected post-event and throughout the review process. I recommend touching base at least once a week with the patient or family. Meet in person, call, e-mail, smoke signal....something, and document whatever you do (yes, these communication attempts belong in the medical record).
In response, I have had some version of the following question tossed at me by skeptical or annoyed physicians: "How long does this go on for? I mean, I'm busy...and I can't keep calling these people."
My response: "As long as it takes. And don't give me the 'busy excuse' because if you get sued you WILL have to make time for discovery, depositions, and a possible trial. What I am recommending is a lot less time consuming, a lot less expense and stress, and can even be rewarding. Just do it."
Now, in fairness, as the post-event relationship develops, other players may help stay in touch with patients or families. Folks like practice managers, risk managers, nursing managers, partners, and others may enter the relationship, and even take over the lead for communication attempts. The important thing is do not let the family feel abandoned. Also, don't let the common excuse of "We didn't have the facts together" be the reason you don't contact the family for weeks or even months.
A recent USA Today op-ed discussed a medical error where the family did not hear from the doc for six months, and a 2012 Health Affairs article written by a doc after his mother died due to errors stated the hospital leadership did not contact him for four months. These stories are not outliers. Unacceptable! If people feel abandoned by their medical team, they will find new friends: lawyers, regulators, reporters, or all the fools on social media.
Staying connected post-event requires training and a well-developed disclosure program. For more information on how to stay connected with patients and families and everything else disclosure, contact us here at Sorry Works! by calling 618-559-8168 or e-mail email@example.com.
Doug Wojcieszak, Founder
618-559-8168 (direct dial)
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