Trend: Hospitals apologize for mistakes publicly

Typically, hospitals have shied away from the legal exposure and bad publicity that come with apologizing publicly for mistakes. Lately, however--prompted by the industry's increasing push toward transparency--a number of hospitals have gone public with mistakes made by their teams. This includes a recent episode at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in which the wrong, non-cancerous kidney was removed from a patient due to incorrect documentation in the patient's chart. Park Nicollet and at least five other health care organizations faced with undeniable errors that caused serious harm have let the world know that they're sorry.

Right now, five states require some type of adverse-event disclosure to patients, and even require reporting of 28 "never events" identified by the National Quality Forum. Now, as laws protecting expressions of empathy, regret and apologies from admissibility in court become more common, hospitals are growing bolder. While some critics fear that the apologies will generate too much legal exposure for doctors, others hail the disclosures as a big step forward for patients.

In theory, such disclosures are a smart public relations strategy, as experts on public disclosure of bad news generally suggest the institution disclose the news on its own. But hospital administrators say that they're doing this because it's the right thing to do, because it enhances trust, and because it helps professionals learn from each other.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this AMNews article

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