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Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Dealing with Docs' Fears of Disclosure & Lawsuits

Despite all the work showing that disclosure reduces lawsuits, the #1 fear about disclosure in survey after survey of clinicians is…..litigation!  Doctors and nurses are still afraid that talking post-event will get them sued. There are many reasons for this situation, including the historical cultural norms of medicine, insurance companies, and defense lawyers.  However, part of the blame can be laid at the feet of disclosure advocates and trainers who simply dodge the issue.  They refuse to say disclosure has anything thing to do with reducing lawsuits or sound risk management strategies.  Instead, they continually throw out cliches like "Disclosure is doing the right thing," to which doctors' brains probably conjure up their own cliches in response: "No good deed goes unpunished" and "The path to Hell is paved with good intentions."   Don't fall into this trap! 

So, what is a better way to deal with the fear of litigation which continues to stifle disclosure?  Confront head it on!

First, acknowledge the legitimate fears that clinicians have about lawsuits and other forms of revenge from unhappy patients and families.  Say this fear is very real, justified, and is OK.  Do not be judgmental.  Second, say that the best way to avoid being sued is to talk with patients/families post-event and stay connected.  Running away has actually been shown to increase the chances of being sued.  Show them the data and provide stories.  As I written in the past, don't be afraid to make the business case for disclosure to your docs and nurses!  Third, show clinicians how to actually talk with patients and families post-event...provide script, sample conversations, discuss cases, and, if possible, role play scenarios.  Fourth, let your clinicians know someone is always available (including evenings and weekends) to help with difficult conversations.

Here is how I tee up this issue in my Sorry Works! presentations for hospitals and insurers: "As doctors and nurses you are probably afraid of litigation...and you should be afraid of lawsuits.  Litigation can screw up your professional and personal lives, and lawsuits aren't fun for patients and families either.  Your fear of lawsuits is entirely justified.  So what is the best way to avoid lawsuits?  Answer: Disclosure.  The data is in showing disclosure dramatically reduces lawsuits and litigation costs while bringing emotional closure for all parties, including clinicians. So, let's talk about how exactly you disclose and communicate post-event...."

We are asking physicians and nurses to be honest with patients and families post-event.  So, shouldn't we be honest with them about disclosure and how it can benefit them?   Seems fair to me....

Are you planning Fall speakers for your medical staff?  Put Sorry Works! on the calendar!  Give us a call at 618-559-8168 or e-mail doug@sorryworks.net.

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