The Power of an Apology: Hospitals Launch Apology Initiative

Shifting from blame and denial to communication and candor is what the Massachusetts Medical Society and six health care organizations announced is the focus of a major initiative to improve the medical liability system in the commonwealth.  The new alliance has launched the effort with the intent to improve patient safety, increase transparency reduce litigation and cut costs to the health care system.

“Disclosure, Apology and Offer” is the new model in which healthcare professionals, institutions and their insurers disclose to patient and families when unanticipated adverse outcomes occur.  It also includes:

  • investigating and explaining what happened;
  • establishing systems to improve patient safety and prevent recurrence of such incidents; and
  • where appropriate, apologizing and offering fair financial compensation without the patient resorting to legal action.

The system will not foreclose a patient’s right to bring legal action, but will make tort claims a last resort.  Adverse events in which the provider or institution is deemed to have met the standard of care will be defended.

Seven hospitals will participate in the pilot program:

  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Needham
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Milton
  • Baystate Medical Center in Springfield
  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield
  • Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware
  • Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston

The initiative was modeled after the University of Michigan’s medical liability program, which reduced legal defense costs by 61%, according to the school.

To learn more about the impact of disclosing medical errors, read the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Agency Healthcare Research & Quality’s Innovation Profile: Full Disclosure of Medical Error Reduces Malpractice Claims and Claims Costs for Health System.