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Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Christian's Story: Importance of Staying Connected Post-Event....

Yesterday I stumbled across a story posted on Facebook written by James Padilla, JD, who lost his young son to an adverse medical event.  James wrote a moving essay about the disclosure process that he went through with the doctors, nurses, and hospital.   Here is the part of the essay that really caught my eye and is a powerful teaching tool for all healthcare, insurance, and legal professionals: "Over the next few months, we would call Christian’s surgeon and ask questions. These phone calls were the most important opportunity for Christian’s surgeon and us to reconfirm our trust relationship between us. An opportunity to share updates and information, but also for us to ask questions. The most reassuring response we would receive from his surgeon was sometimes simply, “I don’t know the answer yet, but I will call you when I do.” Most importantly, he did call."

This is an area where a lot of healthcare organizations and caregivers fall down.

First, doctors and nurses try to be Johnny or Jane on the spot with all the answers, especially when pushed by a family, so they start speculating, offer retrospective analysis, or jousting.   I like what the surgeon did in the passage above...if he didn't know, he said so but promised to follow up, and honored his commitments.  This was important to re-establishing trust with the family.

Second, many healthcare organizations do the empathy and initial post-event customer service in fine fashion, but then they fail to stay connected with the patient or family.  Nobody calls.  Nobody checks in.  Weeks and months pass, and the family gets frustrated and suspicious, and the relationship can fall apart.  The excuses I always hear why healthcare and insurance professionals don't stay in touch are: 1) We're busy...we have lots of cases; 2) We had nothing new to report...we didn't have all the facts together; 3) The family didn't call, so we assumed everything was OK.  Three deadly sins in my book.  You may be busy with lots of cases, but this is the only case that matters to this family.  You don't have to have something new to report to touch base, see how they are doing, and see if you can help them.  And just because a family doesn't call never assume everything is all right.  Look, disclosure is about maintaining relationships, and to do so you need to stay in touch.   We recommend contacting the patient or family once a week (maybe more, maybe a little less).  Also, as part of staying in touch, interviewing the family for their perspective on what happened should be part of your post-event investigation.  The interview can be empathetic and you can learn a lot too.

These are important issues....these issues and several others are covered in this important article, which can be found here: http://www.pipsqc.org/BLOGEVENTS/PIPSQCBlog/tabid/89/EntryId/59/Apology-and-Disclosure-A-Father-s-Perspective-Opportunity.aspx.

Hey, remember, we have our next free webinar to review our on disclosure learning courses for front-line staff next Thursday, February 6th at 1pm EST.   To register, simply e-mail doug@sorryworks.net.

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