Medical Errors, the Media, and Regulators
Over the last couple days there's been a story circulating in the media - including blogs and e-newsletters - about several California hospitals recently getting hit with stiff fines for harm caused by medical errors. I've spoken numerous times in California hospitals and have heard their fear of regulatory fines as well as bad exposure in the media. And I've heard the same concerns from hospitals all across the country and also clients in the long-term care industry.
You know, all those years of "deny and defend" have not only produced a lawsuit crisis, they've also produced a media crisis and regulatory crisis for healthcare organizations and their clinicians! PI lawyers aren't the only ones who like to play "Gotcha ya!" So do reporters and regulators!
And just like the lawsuits, disclosure is the way forward with the media and regulators. Disclosure has helped us re-start the discussion with plaintiff's bar....it can do the same with the media and regulators.
A good reporter is like a good PI lawyer. They like to see you make a mistake, and then poop in the nest even further by saying "no comment." Gets the juices flowing! The chase is on, followed by the kill. But an open, honest, & contrite "target" takes the wind out of an aggressive reporter....just the same as with a PI lawyer. The story will read much differently, or just get spiked altogether. Moreover, use your disclosure program to be pro-active with your media....explain how you are now handling errors in a different, ethical manner. Get out in front of the situation.
With regulators, they are under enormous pressure from consumer groups, the media, and politicians to uncover medical mistakes and punish "bad" clinicians, both in acute and long-term care. Again, this is a by-product of all those years of covering up. "If the hospitals and nursing homes won't tell us the truth, we'll get the state to beat the truth out of them…and hit them with a bunch of fines in the process." Again, disclosure gives acute and long-term care healthcare executives a chance to re-start the discussion with regulatory people and the politicians....explain how things are being handled differently now, and ask for some breathing room. This is part of the reason Sorry Works! recently launched the campaign to reform state licensure boards and the NPDB in light of the growing disclosure movement - join our cause!