judge's gavel in law court, personal injury

Research conducted by Stanford Health Policy has determined that apologies have a significant impact on patient’s desire to sue. The research conducted by the university showed that patients are not likely to sue a physician for medical malpractice when offered a straightforward and honest explanation regarding medical procedures gone wrong.

A New Method of Risk Management

Physicians and healthcare facilities have long avoided responsibility for medical errors and malpractice claims. Many deny any wrongdoing until it is proven in court by a personal injury lawyer. However, some healthcare providers and facilities in Massachusetts are experimenting with apologizing and using serious harm events as learning experiences to improve patient care and treatment. The goal of physicians and liability insurers is to divert disputes from litigation and the experiments conducted in Massachusetts show that it may work.

The study examined 989 adverse events within these two facilities that occurred between 2013 and 2015. Of these, just 5% of affected patients filed medical malpractice claims or lawsuits against physicians or the facilities.

Investigation and Resolution

The key to the program’s success is a thorough investigation of what happened, what went wrong, and what factors led to the serious harm event. This is followed by a series of detailed steps that are intended to prevent the same harm event from reoccurring again in the future. In cases where an injury was caused by a medical error, compensation is offered to the patient or their surviving family members. The median compensation offered and accepted by patients or their family was $75,000. By comparison, the median payments received by plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits nationwide was $225,000.

Once the claim is resolved, the healthcare facility shifts its focus towards prevention using the information gathered in the investigation to adjust hospital policy and improve training. In turn, this increases patient safety, decreases repeat occurrences, and reduces hospital liability expenses.

Proactive Communication Doesn’t Always Lead to Resolution

It is important to discuss any medical malpractice claim with a personal injury lawyer before accepting compensation or waiving the right to sue. While an apology can assuage emotional suffering, it cannot cover long-term medical expenses, lost wages, and impact to quality of life that a serious harm event can cause. Before signing any document offered by a healthcare provider, individuals should thoroughly consider their legal options and the financial obligations that will need to be addressed and accounted for to take care of any personal injuries they have suffered.