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Betsy Lehman Center Report on Medical Errors, Disclosure & Apology

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Last month the Betsy Lehman Center in Boston released the results of a comprehensive study they conducted on medical errors in Massachusetts.  Specifically, the team from the Betsy Lehman Center attempted to quantify/measure the number of medical errors happening annually in Massachusetts and the financial and emotional harm inflected by those errors.  Part of their study included surveying and interviewing people who had experienced substandard medical care and asking about their experiences, including were they given an apology, how did they rate post-event communication efforts, etc.  Very comprehensive study.  

Here is the link for the report.   

Readers of this space will find a lot of interesting and useful information in the report.  Here are some of the highlights from the report:

  • The researchers believe there are nearly 62,000 medical errors annually in the State of Massachusetts, and the financial tab for these errors is $617 million.

  • Sixty-six percent (66%) of respondents said medical errors made them less trusting of the medical system, and respondents shared that medical errors exacted a financial toll on their families.

  • One in three people (33%) reported being satisfied with post-event communication (66% not).

  • Nineteen percent (19%) reported receiving an apology after medical error, and 82% of those who received an apology said they felt the apology was sincere or genuine.

  • Twenty-three percent (23%) said the clinician explained how future medical errors would be prevented (while 72% did not).

  • When respondents were asked a series of questions such as "was the error acknowledged?" nearly 25% of the respondents answered in the affirmative.

  • The researchers believe their data shows that disclosure and apology reduces or alleviates emotional harm for patients and families who have experienced medical errors.

Obviously, the Betsy Lehman researchers wanted to see higher affirmative/positive responses for disclosure and apology, especially in a state like Massachusetts which has done so much on the issue of disclosure and apology. Yet, I still believe this is a sign of progress.  Had the same research project been conducted 20 years or even 10 years ago, I imagine almost all respondents (perhaps 100%?) would say they received no apology, no communication, no explanation, etc.  We have made progress, but as the study shows there is much work to do. 

Fall is right around the corner, and Sorry Works! can be a great addition to your Grand Rounds schedule.  For more information on Sorry Works! Grands Round presentations, call 618-559-8168 or 


- Doug 

Doug Wojcieszak, Founder and President
Sorry Works!
618-559-8168 (direct dial) (direct e-mail)   

Doug Wojcieszak