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Medical Apology Strategy Shows Signs of Strength

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, May 3, 2012

The University of Michigan Health System's "apology" program has been seen as a benchmark among those seeking to establish similar programs.  The health system adopted a policy of investigating adverse events in 2002, which included the apology strategy. Using the technique over the past decade, the health system has been "incredibly successful by all the metrics," Woodward says. It has reduced the length of cases, and the administrative costs of each case by more than 60%, he adds. "There has been tremendous satisfaction on the part of physicians and even attorneys," according to Woodward.

Although there have been many organizations that have initiated the apology strategy, many physicians, obviously, don't use it. "Patients never get an apology," Woodward says. "It is something they look for. When something goes wrong, there's almost a termination of open communication between physician and patient."

A Massachusetts Medical Society study showed that there is strong support for the DA&O approach because, among other things, it is the "right thing to do" ethically, according to Woodward.

The Massachusetts hospitals, physicians, patient groups, and insurers who are carrying out the pilot want to take the University of Michigan Health System work even further by applying it to the entire state.

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1 comments on "Medical Apology Strategy Shows Signs of Strength"


Mounir Marhaba (5/21/2012 at 4:49 AM)
Your message makes absolute sense from both civility, accountability and good manners, and I am personally for disclosing adverse events to patients. However, the problem is a bit more complex for professionals working in hospitals and clinics, especially, when you introduce legalistic, financial and licensing liability issues into the equation. In certain international jurisdictions more than money might be on the block! This is where people tend to put their brakes on...naturally, and probably as part of prudent legal advice e.g. the apology comes after an investigation and the degree of error involved. If there is a strategy/guidelines that can delineate the circumstances, when a provider can be apologetic,while taking the local laws into consideration, then that will indeed be helpful to providers, so they may appear to be more compassionate. Thanks.