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When Medical Errors Happen, Executives Shouldn't Hide

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, November 2, 2011


"If you know what happened, and there's no debate about what happened, how do you work with the family on a rapid case resolution including compensation?" Conway said in an interview. 

"That's why we titled the report 'Respectful Management,' he says. "It's about how you would want to be treated in such a situation."

In other industries, the idea is often called "service recovery," as in compensation or a refund for a purchase that didn't work.  In the setting of a hospital adverse event, where the stakes are much higher, "you may not even know if there was an error or not, but someone is in critical condition you didn't expect to be," he says.

"Now there are practical issues. A family member has to stay in town, so are you helping them with hotel bills and meals? What about transportation? How do you send the message, 'We're there for you?' You need to remove any barriers associated with this unanticipated outcome," he adds.

Based on his travels around the country speaking with hospital executives, staff, and victims of medical errors, Conway estimates that only about 25% of hospitals have any kind of integrated response or crisis management plan, or a rapid compensation or reimbursement plan to follow in the aftermath. 

Conway and co-authors say that the IHI has "met patients, family members, and healthcare staff who are rightfully angry and frustrated, often for many years, over a lack of resolution and healing and the disrespectful treatment they received in the aftermath of preventable harm or unanticipated outcomes. They have asked us, 'Where is the outrage? I walked my son into the hospital and I brought him home dead.  Why wouldn't anyone talk to me?'"

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1 comments on "When Medical Errors Happen, Executives Shouldn't Hide"


Joleen Chambers (11/3/2011 at 9:56 AM)
Hospital and healthcare leaders need to focus on the #1 expenditure of Medicare: joint replacements. The medical device INDUSTRY now enjoys entitlements such as pre-emption from state court, no warranty on product, no independent post-market data registry, VOTING stakeholder participation at FDA in opposition to NON-voting patient/consumer stakeholders, a powerful lobby and increasing market of obese baby boomers fed misleading direct-to-consumer advertisements. When devices fail, the doctors are not legally required to report, the FDA MedWatch does not prompt immediate investigation and the patient is left with few legal or medical options. This is not patient-centered HEALTHCARE.