Picking a Health Care Professional With Disclosure and Apology in Mind
Selecting a health care professional, be it a physician, nursing home, dentist, surgeon, or even a veterinarian for your pet, is an important decision. There are many factors you should consider, from recommendations of friends and family and online reviews, to referrals from trusted healthcare professionals.
When meeting with a healthcare professional or nursing home for the first time, this initial visit should be a chance for you to size up the physician and his/her team. Ask yourself many questions such as:
- How does the receptionist make you feel when answering the phone?
- How were you greeted when entering the practice?
- How long did you have to wait to be seen by the nurse and doctor?
- How were the mannerisms and personality of the doctor and nurses and other staff…do you like these people? Are they friendly and courteous?
- What is the state of their office or facility, including the bathroom….is it clean and neat? Is it a welcoming atmosphere?
You should also ask the healthcare professional and their team how they will handle any potential medical errors. Nobody wants to think about medical errors, and we all hope for the best care from our doctors and nurses, but mistakes do happen, sometimes with tragic consequences. Some estimates peg medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States. If something bad happens during your care, you deserve the truth. You don’t want a tragedy to be compounded by a healthcare professional who doesn’t know how to communicate with you after something goes or fails to take responsibility. So, consider the following questions when meeting a doctor or nursing home for the first time:
- If there is a potential mistake in my care, what will happen?
- Do you believe in disclosure and apology?
- Is your hospital/nursing home or insurer supportive of disclosure and apology?
- So, you say you believe in disclosure, but have you and your staff actually been trained how to communicate with patients and families after something goes wrong?
- Do you have a disclosure policy? A disclosure program?
- If I am angry or confused about something, will you take my phone call?
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions. Healthcare professionals are very aware of the disclosure movement for medical errors, and should be prepared to respond to you. If you are not satisfied with the answers, you may consider another healthcare professional or nursing home.