Confidential Med-Mal Settlements? Why??
During several Sorry Works! presentations for hospitals I've had nurses and doctors share some version of the following with me: "Well, you know we have these adverse events, they are very sad, but then the family disappears, the lawyers swoop in and take over, and then....that's it. A year or two or three passes, and we never hear how the situation was resolved. Nobody talks about it. It just goes into a black hole."
How do you learn from events or even get emotional closure when situations are handled in this manner? Answer is you don't.
I've heard from some lawyer friends who say confidential settlements are just part of the process in settling a med-mal case. It's literally a check box that no one really thinks about other than making sure the box gets checked. Well, it's time to re-think this part of the process with disclosure become more prevalent.
At Sorry Works!, we tell hospitals and insurers that they should approach a settlement with the mindset that the final product will be OPEN AND TALKED ABOUT. This is the new check box. Only if there are really good reasons, such as the family wants it closed, do we have a confidential settlement. We plan to share the resolution of cases with staff, including what we learned, and, if possible, involve the staff and consumers who were involved in the adverse event. This is a critical part of how we improve our culture and encourage other clinicians to come forward after adverse events. Literally, an additional check box for a settlement should read, "Would you, the patient or family, like to come back to the hospital to tell the story of your adverse event with our staff?" That's powerful!
I know there will be pushback or excuses why this can't work: "But local trial lawyers will learn about our mistakes and system errors or what we paid, and this will simply invite more litigation." My response to this is, "Hey, remember, as part of disclosure we are going to reach out to local PI lawyers, tell them about our disclosure program, and invite them to help us assist injured patients BUT we will NEVER pay a penny for cases that do NOT involve errors." Get rid of the secrecy because that it what drives consumers and lawyers to file lawsuits. You're an open, honest book and, to be frank, that is NOT a juicy target for trial lawyers.
To schedule a Sorry Works! talk for your hospital or group of insureds, call 618-559-8168 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.