Seven hospitals in one northeast state have implemented a policy called "Disclosure, Apology and Offer." The goal of the program is reportedly to improve transparency and reduce the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed against the hospitals and the medical professionals that work in them.
Under the new plan, hospital officials will act proactively, disclosing to patients when an error, oversight or "adverse outcome" takes place. A staff member will apologize for the issue and, when appropriate, the hospital will offer financial compensation to the patient and his or her family. The patient will still have the option of filing a malpractice suit if they choose.
The program is modeled after a similar initiative in a different state. There, one hospital says that medical malpractice claims have dropped by 40 percent and litigation costs have dropped by $2 million each year since the disclosure and apology program was launched.
According to the executive director of the state Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, the program will not only resolve issues more quickly, but will also improve patient safety and error prevention overall by encouraging hospital staff to discuss errors and incidents.
Disclosure and apology programs, she said, provide "a safer environment where if something happens, [doctors] don't feel they are going to be blamed personally. They [are] more open to discussing. That information is used by the organization not just to compensate, but to change how care [is delivered]."
Do you think this program or one like it should be brought to Houston hospitals?
Source: American Medical News, "Massachusetts hospitals launch patient apology program," Alicia Gallegos, May 21, 2012