Apology Laws a Distraction
APOLOGY LAWS A DISTRACTION -- COMMENT ON BLOG July 15, 2011 Many state legislatures have concluded or are wrapping up their business for the year, and a handful of states considered apology legislation this year, which means the media writes about it, which means we get phone calls and e-mails about the subject. The calls and e-mails generally fall into two camps:
"My state has an apology law - how does it work?"
"My state doesn't have an apology law -- what does that mean for me and my practice or hospital?"
I'm always polite and patient with these folks, as I am with all callers (my cell is 618-559-8168, call me anytime)...but I want to ask a question back: "What's the status of your disclosure program? Forget about what the politicians have done on apology laws, and, instead, tell me what you are doing to develop a disclosure program in your practice, hospital, or insurance company?"
There has also been a slew of academic and popular articles about the meaning & effectiveness of apology laws, how we make better apology laws, etc, etc.
Can it, people!
Sure, apology laws (whatever flavor they may be) can make docs and clinicians feel more comfortable, but the problem is they involve too many political battles and the minutia of the law. The whole point of disclosure and Sorry Works! is to get away from the political battles and squabbling lawyers! Moreover, apology laws hardly get used....defense counsel don't use them because they know disclosure generally builds great evidence (even if there is a lawsuit), whereas most PI lawyers know that talking about a doc's sorry in courtroom can often back fire. Apology laws are truly legal nothings.
Though well-intentioned, I fear the apology laws have become an unnecessary distraction. Forget about the politicians and the lawyers and instead return the focus to people: patients, families, doctors, nurses, and staff. Let's stop wasting time & resources trying to create the perfect apology law because it will be a never-ending fight (like tort reform) with little to gain and focus instead on our people....and give our people (docs, nurses, staff) the resources they need to get connected with patients and families pre-event (ala Five-Star) and stay connected after an event (ala disclosure, Sorry Works!).
Seriously, take the money dedicated to lobbying for apology laws as well as tort reform and other "reform initiatives" and, instead, plow it back into disclosure training for docs and nurses --- because they need it --- and building disclosure programs to support clinicians. Sure, there is a lot of work to do with disclosure, such as promoting and figuring out the compensation piece. But I'd much rather spend time hashing out the details with my claims and risk folks instead of fighting trial lawyers to get the attention of some politician who is more interested in education reform, tax legislation, or whatever the issue of the day is.
We've always said disclosure is all about empowerment because you start it and own it whenever you choose - no politicians needed. Bottomline, we don't need apology laws. We simply need to educate our people, build disclosure programs, and begin working the process.
For information on disclosure training for your practice, hospital, or insurance company, call Sorry Works! at 618-559- 8168 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doug Wojcieszak, Founder Sorry Works! PO Box 531 Glen Carbon, IL 62034 618-559-8168 (direct dial)