Reviewing Hospitals for Disclosure and Apology
Your foundation just gifted a major charitable donation to a hospital or nursing home system. The name of your organization is on a plaque in the lobby, or maybe even on the side of the building. This is a big deal for your foundation. You are happy to support the good works of the healthcare facility, and believe your financial assistance is making a difference in the lives of patients and families as well as doctors and nurses. It appears to be win-win for everyone.
Unfortunately, a week later you turn on the 6 o’clock news or open the newspaper to learn that the hospital – your hospital – has been accused of a crippling or even fatal medical error. TV cameras and photographers show a grieving family standing in front of your hospital with a lawyer (that guy you see on the billboards) in tow saying nasty things about the medical staff and promising to get to the bottom of this tragedy. Perhaps your foundation’s name – which was affixed to the hospital’s new tower last week – can be seen in the camera angles. Not good.
When asked to respond to the family’s accusations, the hospital CEO quickly utters, “No comment” and hides behind HIPAA and her lawyers. Those lawyers may fight for years over obvious malpractice, and drag the family, medical staff, and your good name through the mud. Money will eventually exchange hands, but no one will learn from the medical errors, reputations will be irreparably damaged, and the same mistake will likely happen again with equally devastating results.
It doesn’t have to be this way
Over the last decade, there has been a growing number of hospitals and nursing homes that have adopted disclosure and apology programs. Instead of running away from errors and litigating for years, these organizations stay connected with patients and families after something goes wrong, honestly review what happened, and then communicate the findings with the family and resolve any wrong doing. Families who experienced medical errors that caused injury or death are given a true apology (“We are sorry…we made the following mistake..”), and then all financial and emotional needs are met in a fair, upfront manner without the need for protracted litigation. Several hospitals in the United States have reported in peer-reviewed scientific journals that disclosure and apology actually lowers litigation costs while dramatically improving patient safety. In fact, it has been shown that disclosure works best with “major” cases such as crippling injuries or death. Finally, disclosure and apology was recently endorsed by the American Medical Association.
Despite the successes, disclosure and apology is still a relatively new idea and it represents a major cultural shift away from the old “deny and defend” way of handling medical errors. Most hospitals and nursing homes understand the economic and safety benefits from disclosure and apology, but not enough healthcare systems have fully implemented disclosure and apology. Not enough doctors, nurses, risk and claims managers, and defense lawyers have been taught how to say “sorry” and run to problems. Nevertheless, most healthcare CEOs will adamantly reply “Yes!” when asked if they tell families the truth when something goes wrong, yet, a close look under hood often tells a different story.
As a foundation, you want to financially align with organizations that share your ethics and have a passion for helping people. Moreover, you don’t want a major donation to boomerang into bad publicity. When it comes to healthcare, you should want to support hospitals and nursing homes that truly excel at patient safety. Disclosure and apology is state-of-the art for healthcare, and disclosure is becoming a patient safety and resolution dispute requirement for hospitals and nursing homes.
Make Sorry Works! part of your due diligence for healthcare systems seeking financial support
Sorry Works! has been the nation’s leading advocacy and training organization for disclosure and apology for the last 13 years. Sorry Works! is literally the brand name of the disclosure movement, and we have trained more clinicians in every conceivable way than any other organization. Most importantly, we are an independent 501c3 non-profit organization…we are not officially affiliated with any healthcare system or university. We’re honest umpires with an educated eye. We can tell you which hospitals and nursing homes are doing disclosure well, and which organizations have room for improvement – and how they can improve.
Using Sorry Works! to review hospitals and nursing homes seeking grants will not only give you peace of mind with your donations, it will also spur more healthcare organizations to formally implement disclosure programs. This is a win-win for everyone, especially patients and families!
Sorry Works! will review the disclosure programs of healthcare organizations seeking financial assistance from your foundation. Sorry Works! will begin by assessing the disclosure policy of the organization, disclosure materials, and other content, then interview key personnel, including the CEO, CMO, CNO, General Counsel, and Chief Risk Officer. We will also speak with front-line clinicians and patients and families who have experienced the disclosure protocol of a given hospital or nursing home. Sorry Works! will report back to you with a written report and recommendations.
Make Sorry Works! part of the due diligence for your foundation and charitable giving program. When a CEO from a major hospital tells you they are transparent, let Sorry Works! take a look on your behalf. For more information, contact Doug Wojcieszak at 618-559-8168 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.