Why Sorry Works! is a Business
Over the past few weeks, some patient safety advocates has expressed anger at Sorry Works! Chief among their concerns is that Sorry Works! is an actual business....not a non-profit or loosely associated volunteer group. They don't like the thought of a profit-oriented operation getting into their space. I was asked about this criticism recently by a reporter, and below is my response. I thought our readers would like to see this. If you want to help the Sorry Works! business, please buy a book, Empathy booklet, or schedule us for a Sorry Works! presentation. We need all the help we can get!
Response to Reporter:
I launched Sorry Works! in 2005 as an advocacy organization with a $0 budget. I was strictly doing the work pro-bono through my PR firm. I had enough work coming in through my PR firm and other business that I could afford to put Sorry Works! out there and see if the message resonated. My initial goal was to simply to get doctors/hospitals/insurers to think differently about med-mal reform....realize there was better solution than tort reform/caps, and it's called disclosure. In 2005, I was initially spending five to 10 hours per week advocating disclosure through my website, media work, and e-newsletters...and it caught fire. Soon I was up to 20+ hours per week of charity work. Also, started getting inquiries from hospitals/insurers asking for training on disclosure and apology for their front-line staff and clinicians.
I had a decision to make. Sorry Works! was catching fire, but in so doing it was eating up more and more of my professional and personal time. I had (and still have) a passion for the issue, but I also have a family, mortgage, and my other business concerns. I had to start generating revenue to support the cause. I realistically couldn't keep doing this for free. My choices were to incorporate Sorry Works! as a non-profit or as a business. The non-profit route simply wasn't for me...I had spent years working in government and around non-profits, and I simply didn't want to spend the time and hassle writing grant applications and begging for money, knowing it would never be enough, and forever having to justify expenditures ---- when the need for disclosure training was immediate. Doctors and nurses need this help now. I said to myself, "Instead of spending time writing grant applications, let's spend the time developing great content and let the market decide if the message is good." Sorry Works! is an Illinois limited liability corporation.
Over the past five years I have developed all sorts of content: books, booklets, webinars, presentations, etc with one focus: Teaching disclosure. The Sorry Works! website receives, on average, over 400 unique visitors per day, and the Sorry Works! e-newsletters have nearly 3,000 unique subscribers. Sorry Works! has been featured in popular and trade publications around the world, including Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal, American Medical Association News, and countless others. Through this business model, I can say without bragging that Sorry Works! has won the debate on disclosure. When Sorry Works! began disclosure was controversial and even a "four-letter word"...now it is accepted. Hospitals and insurers are moving towards implementation, and Sorry Works! is continuing to help that implementation.
Now, some patient safety advocates may think Sorry Works! is a corporate behemoth tied to P/L statements. We are not. I'm a micro-entrepreneur...I don't have a staff, and I work solo and sometimes through partnerships and alliances. Moreover, I say exactly what is on my mind....and I know this blunt approach has sometimes lost business for me. But, that's not the type of business I want anyway, because disclosure only works if it's credible...it has to be credible to patients and families. Has to pass the smell test of the most aggressive trial lawyer. Also has to be credible to the most skeptical, jaded physician. And Sorry Works! has managed to win over all these camps by simply telling the truth. Be empathetic and supportive when something goes wrong, but only say what you know when you know it. Wait for a credible, fair review to tell us what happened (or didn't happen). If medical errors caused harm, fairly and quickly compensate...if harm was not the result of error, continue to be empathetic and supportive while fully explaining yourself.
Finally, I give away a lot of stuff and will help anyone...especially students. My cell phone and e-mail address are all over the Internet. I'm always available.