Healthcare News & Insights

No. 1 way to prevent malpractice suits

Medical errors and malpractice suits go hand in hand — but not in the way most folks think they do.

Evidence is growing that in the aftermath of an avoidable medical error, the way patient communication is handled may be the most important factor in whether or not a malpractice case is pursued.

That was the takeaway from “Fulfilling the Promise: Advancing Safety and Medical Liability Reform Innovations,” a recent forum co-sponsored by Common Good and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Attendees with legal, health care and health policy expertise met to share information on programs that are working — and ways to develop effective new programs. Among the key factors seen most frequently in programs that have reduced error and malpractice rates:

  • Full disclosure to the patient and/or family — an explanation of what went wrong, efforts being taken to prevent future errors, and most importantly, an apology.
  • Compensation offered promptly — before legal threats are made.
  • Alternative resolutions — arbitration, mediation and other techniques, such as allowing patients and families to have input into new safety efforts.
  • Patient safety and error prevention programs that are built into the culture of the organization through training and frequent “refresher” sessions.

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  1. Annemarie Belteu, PhD, PMP says:

    This is just basic good customer service. The trick is to know right away that there is a problem, acknowledge it and take action. Too often pride blinds one to their own mistakes, or it gets swept under the carpet. Then it will bite you. The customers hurt and not quickly dealt with as above may not sue, but you can be sure they will tell all of their friends who will go elsewhere for treatment.