Thursday, August 19, 2010

Learning from Mistakes - Medical Edition.

“When you break that paradigm of litigation and give patients the chance to understand the human element of the other side — of the doctor and what they are struggling with — you find that people are far more forgiving and understanding than has been typically assumed,” said Richard C. Boothman, one of the study’s authors and the medical center’s chief risk officer, who devised and carried out the disclosure program. “We have given patients no alternative but to sue, and then we use the fact that they sue to show how opportunistic and awful they are.”
That is from an article in the NYT about a new approach being taken by the Univ. of Michigan Health System.  Instead of circling the wagons and taking refuge behind the lawyers when a mistake is made, the hospital staff admit the mistake to their patients and talk about what they have learned and what they are going to do to avoid the same mistake in the future.  Sometimes they compensate the patient or family, but that is worked out directly rather than via a lawsuit.

You really have to hand it to the University of Michigan for trying to break with normal practice, which is that doctors are discouraged from admitting or talking about mistakes, preventing others from learning from them.  The article notes:
"That openness has in turn created an environment where patient safety and patient care, not avoidance of litigation, have become the priority."