Do doctor apologies curb malpractice suits?

by Walter Olson on September 17, 2009

A new study, based on video simulation, may raise doubts. [ACP Internist, Kevin MD, Ronald Miller]

{ 1 comment }

1 brooks schuelke 09.17.09 at 6:37 pm

Walter –

I shared my thoughts with you on Twitter that this methodology is ridiculous. The idea behind the apology is that it plays into the personal dynamics of the parties. First, it helps the relationship between the doctor and the patient. Second, many lawsuits are filed simply because patients can’t get doctors to explain what went wrong, and the lawsuit becomes the only vehicle to answer those questions. The video test can’t measure either of those dynamics.

Empirical research suggests the contrary. The University of Michigan Health System adopted an apology system and found these results:

malpractice claims against his health system fell from 121 in 2001 to 61 in 2006, while the backlog of open claims went from 262 in 2001 to 106 in 2006 and 83 in 2007. Between 2001 and 2007, the average time to process a claim fell from about 20 months to about eight months, costs per claim were halved and insurance reserves dropped by two-thirds.
(my link to an article is bad, but Google can help you out).

The Lexington, Ky VA hospital had similar results.

Do apologies get rid of lawsuits? No, but they certainly help.

Comments on this entry are closed.