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Hospitals say “sorry” after medical errors

Posted Jan 11 2010 12:10pm

It’s one of the first lessons you were taught while attending elementary school. Play nice with the other kids and don’t forget to tell people you are sorry when you hurt them or make a mistake.

For years this practice appeared to be considered taboo by some physicians and hospitals. They wouldn’t dare admit blame, due to fear of being sued. But some now say it is good business to apologize when things go wrong.

A recent article in the New York Times discusses the issue. The article points out that:

Even a decade ago, according to physicians, it was standard practice for many doctors and hospitals not to inform patients about medical errors. Now an increasing number of leading medical centers are taking a different tack and encouraging doctors to apologize to patients for mistakes and to explain what went wrong.

Doctors say that such accountability can help patients feel more cared for and empowered, as well as enhance the reputation of the doctor and medical center as honest brokers. Although one might assume that apologizing exposes hospitals to increased litigation, a few medical centers, including the University of Michigan Health System, have reported that the approach has reduced malpractice suits.

Some experts say that apologizing has the ability to create a teachable moment. It helps let your staff know that certain practices are not acceptable. It can also help prevent medical errors from happening again.

Let us know what you think. Has a doctor or health system ever apologized to you?

Share your comments below.

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