Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lessons from Telluride Patient Safety Conference

Hey, so to prove that I have not simply been mountain biking, hiking, sun bathing, and breathing fresh mountain air while consuming locally brewed IPA beer , I decided to make a few blogs on lessons from this excellent conference on patient safety that the department sent me to.

The first thing I wanted to talk about was a little-known law that is increasing throughout the country in state legislation. They are called apology laws. Apology laws come in different forms but all intend to exclude physicians' apologies or other interpreted acceptance of error into liability case testimony. This  is an effort to encourage open discussion and apology of error with patients and their families, and reduce the current medical culture's fear of acknowledgement of error. There is growing evidence that these laws alleviate some of this and may actually reduce malpractice suits and thus healthcare costs.

This extraordinarily thorough paper outlines the current evidence and discussion regarding apology laws. New York does not yet have legislation of this type yet, but the more we educate ourselves on it the more push there will be to add this.  The following is a quote from the paper:

"Most patients and families who file a legal action report feeling angry, bitter, betrayed, or humiliated. In cases where explanations were given, patients and family report feeling dissatisfied—that the explanation was unclear, inaccurate, or sparse—even though 40% felt like the explanations were given sympathetically. Most were informed of the error by hospital administration in 70% of cases, and by the doctor in less than 10% of cases. This leaves one to wonder whether a doctor’s direct acknowledgment and explanation of the error would have changed the patient’s willingness to sue.  "

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