Why 'I'm sorry' still matters: Hospital CEO apologizes for death of actor's brother

Two years after the settlement regarding a well-publicized patient death, President and CEO Sandra Coletta of Rhode Island's Kent Hospital is still apologizing for the death of actor James Woods's brother, Michael, reports WBUR.

In 2006, Michael Woods died of a heart attack, waiting in the emergency room. Attributing the tragedy to both human errors and poorly designed space, Coletta explained details this week at the 10th annual Medically Induced Trama Support Services dinner about how the hospital acknowledged the mistakes and the actions that followed.

"Quite honestly I did nothing other than what my mother taught me," Coletta said about the media attention for her apology. "I think all too often in health care we evaluate, and we are counseled, and we read books upon books. But sometimes you just have to go back to your core value."

Coletta added, "When I met that man, I did not meet 'James Woods.' I met a family member who had lost a brother, because an order that was written by our emergency physician was not carried out by the staff."

Kent Hospital settled the case in 2009 and invested $1.25 million to studying healthcare redesign and error reduction through the hospital's Michael J. Woods Institute, created in honor of the patient.

The chief executive's apology may prove to be one example of error disclosure that, in addition to acknowledging mistakes, also could help to reduce malpractice payments. The much cited 2010 Archives of Internal Medicine study indicated that implementing an apology program cut malpractice lawsuits in half, with the average monthly filed suits falling from 2.13 per 100,000 patient encounters to 0.75 per 100,000, according to the University of Michigan Health System and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. Researchers also found that the average cost for lawsuits dropped from nearly $406,000 to $228,000.

For more information:
- watch the WBUR report
- read the 2010 Archives of Internal Medicine study abstract

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