Medical Apology Strategy Shows Signs of Strength

Joe Cantlupe, May 3, 2012

I'm just starting this column and already I'm saying, "I'm sorry."

A year ago, I wrote how the University of Michigan Health System found it extremely worthwhile in cost savings and patient satisfaction when physicians apologized for doing something wrong.

I'm bringing it up again, and I'm sorry for repeating myself, but there's much more to say about this now.

In medical cases, apologies don't make the malpractice issue go away, nor do they necessarily prevent such litigation.  I'm writing about this simple practice again because other, similar efforts are worth spotlighting in their attempts to reduce malpractice litigation, not only through scattered health systems across the country, but on a statewide stage.

For instance, the Massachusetts Medical Society last month announced plans for a pilot program involving hospitals, physicians, academics and insurers to use an approach of "Disclosure, Apology and Offer" to reform the medical liability system in the Bay State. 

The DA&O refers to when physicians admit mistakes, offer an apology, and potentially offer to settle the issue, not necessarily in court. The program was initiated after the society released a report, Roadmap to Reform, which focused on exploring alternative approaches to the existing tort system involving medical liability.

Joe Cantlupe Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.Twitter

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