Open Communication After Harmful Medical Events: Don’t Go it Alone!

Current research supports transparent communication and compassionate apology after medical errors.  Above all it’s the right thing to do.  Moreover,  it can reduce patients’ psychological distress and repair their trust in their health care.  There’s a risk, however: poorly done conversations can make a bad situation worse for everyone involved.

What comes before and after “I’m sorry”?

As the articles below indicate, clinicians clearly gain from training and preparation before they are thrust into the complex disclosure and apology process – for patients’ benefit as well as their own.  Furthermore, once trained, clinicians need a team for support.  In other words, none of us should go it alone.

Disclosure Coaching: An Ask-Tell-Ask Supports Clinicians

Journal of Patient Safety: May 16, 2018
Authors:  Shapiro, Jo MD; Robins, Lynne PhD; Galowitz, Pamela BA; Gallagher, Thomas H. MD; Bell, Sigall MD

National standards recommend just-in-time coaching for clinicians who need to disclose and apologize. Teams need disclosure coaches at the ready. So how do you train the coaches? The authors propose an “Ask-Tell-Ask” model.

Read more.

How to apologize effectively for medical errors

Healio Primary Care Today, May 14, 2019
by Alaina Tedesco

The 2019 Stanford Law Review article “Sorry Is Never Enough: How State Apology Laws Fail to Reduce Medical Malpractice Liability Risk” caused a stir with its finding that State apology laws may not offer liability protections in the absence of offers of compensation.  Healio Primary Care Today interviews the paper’s authors, who highlight the importance of disclosure and apology training, noting, “without proper training, clinicians may offer apologies in ways that ultimately increase, not decrease, their malpractice liability risk.”

Read full interview.

For you | For your team | For your institution

Upcoming workshops on Disclosure and Apology

From the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice. Taught by Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital faculty.  CEs and group rates available.

March 27, 2020
The Fundamentals of Disclosure Coaching 
Half-day workshop in Boston, MA

April 8, 2020
Disclosure and Apology in Radiology
2-hour online workshop for radiological professionals

May 27, 2020
Deep Dive into Disclosure and Apology
2-hour online workshop