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Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

X-MAS Gift for Risk/Claims Folks and Defense Lawyers: Running Shoes

Less than a week 'till the Big Day, and you're still wondering what to get that hard-to-shop-for risk manager, claims manager, or med-mal defense lawyer?  Try running shoes.  Running shoes?  Yep, running shoes! Interesting opinion piece came out of Ireland over past couple days about disclosure in hospitals and the value (or lack of value) of apology after a prolonged claims and litigation process.  Consider this following excerpt from the article:

"But there appears to be an inherent tension that then kicks in between the legal process and that of open disclosure. Even in the most complex cases, it should take months, at most, to establish liability. An appropriate apology should be forthcoming at this juncture. But as we have heard recently, this apology may not emerge for five years."

The author of this opinion piece was referring to recently settled med-mal cases in Ireland where hospitals litigated and litigated adverse medical events, and, then, at the end of long, bitter legal battles finally admitted fault and apologized.  The author as well as apparently the judge wondered why it took five years to get to the apology, and was the apology really meaningful after such a long fight?   Were the hospital and doctors truly sorry about the bad care, or just sorry they lost the case and are now trying to save face while minimizing financial and PR damages?  Sound anything like the  American medical-legal process?

Here in the States we are accustomed to reviews dragging on for several months and sometimes a year or longer.  Then, even in cases of clear liability, the defense lawyers want to jump in and do some depositions, some discovery, file some motions with the court, etc, etc.  Meanwhile patients, families, and clinicians suffer in the wings while the cases slowwwwwwwllllllyyyy drag on.

That's why good running shoes need to be under the tree for every risk manager, claims manager, and defense attorney this Christmas.   We need more speed post-event.  Please note: I am not asking for people to rush in haste...not asking for people to apologize before knowing all the facts.  Heavens no!  But assembling all facts shouldn't take several months or even years.  Seriously!  Get the experts in quickly to ascertain the situation and report back in a timely fashion to all stakeholders.  If there was a mistake, apologize and look to meet the financial and emotional needs of all stakeholders in a short time frame.   This is not only how we take care of stakeholders involved in adverse events, it's also how we quickly learn from said events and improve safety.

For those who still doubt me about running shoes, consider this: The longer a review drags out, the less credible it is to the consumer.  The longer it takes to come back to me the patient or family with answers, the more I think you are cooking the books....trying to find that one expert -- defense whore! -- who will agree with you.....the more I think you are hoping I will simply get frustrated and go away.   The longer review goes the angrier I become and the more likely I am to visit a lawyer, a state regulator, and/or the media...or social media!

We need speed post-event.  Get those running shoes!

Couple other practical reminders:

1) During the review process, remember to stay in contact with the patient or family.  We recommend at least once a week...maybe a little more or a little less with each case.  And you don't have to have something new to report to contact the family.  You can just reach out, see how they are doing, let them know you haven't forgotten them, and see if they need any other help or have other questions.  You want to stay connected post-event, or the family can begin to feel abandoned and look for help elsewhere (lawyer, regulator, media, etc).

2) Also, as part of your review processs, make sure to interview the patient or family.  Get their side of the story.  Sometimes patients and families have a lot of medical knowledge and facts to share, as they are often the one constant in the care process.   At the minimum, letting a patient or family tell their story can be an incredibly empathetic act which may be all some people need.  Some people just need to be heard.

event?  You need speed.   Here is the link for the Irish opinion piece on disclosure:

Finally, remember, Sorry Works! now is offering on-disclosure learning courses for front-line staff through our new partnership with The Sullivan Group.  We are offering preview webinars of our new on-line disclosure learning courses the following dates/times:


Thursday, 9th:   Noon – 1 pm CST

Thursday, January 23 - Noon – 1 pm CST


Thursday, 6th: Noon – 1 pm CST

Tuesday, 18th: Noon – 1 pm CST

To register for a preview webinar, simply e-mail