I have often been asked at presentations I have given for health professionals, what is the single step they can take which will reduce their chances of facing a claim of medical negligence.
My answer has been the same for 10 + years.
It is surprising how many clients I see, who apart from concern at financial consequences of the poor outcome they have experienced from medical care, are driven by a sense that there has been a refusal to accept responsibility. This is often why client’s say their claims are a matter of principle. Further it is remarkable how many clients appear motivated by a desire that the same outcome not be experienced by ‘the next patient.’
Given this, in my view, apart from taking reasonable care in the medical advice and care provided, the best thing a health care professional or hospital can do, is ensure there is a clear, frank and honest dialogue when the adverse event occurs. It would I am sure surprise some health professionals, how much a patient will ‘shrug off’ if they believe an honest mistake has occurred, that the person involves accepts responsibility and that there will be concerted efforts to ensure it does not recur. This is even more so, in circumstances where the adverse outcome has not been a result of any lack of care.
With this in mind, I was very interested indeed to read this in a recent Wall St Journal article. This is the 1st statistical measure I have seen of the effect of adoption of an ‘open disclosure’ policy and is entirely consistent with my anecdotal experience. Given the results, I would have thought health care bodies and their insurers would be very interested indeed in further investigation of ‘claims management’ on the ground. Given our Civil Liability Act’s protection for apologies, this is even more so the case in West Australia.