- Some malpractice-overhaul advocates say an apology can help doctors avoid getting sued, especially when combined with an upfront settlement offer. The idea defies a long tradition in which doctors cultivated a Godlike image of infallibility and rarely owned up to their mistakes.
- The softer approach, now appearing in some medical school courses and hospital policies, is drawing interest as national attention has turned to reducing both medical errors and the high cost of malpractice insurance, which has been blamed for driving doctors out of business.
Doctors' often-paternalistic relationship with patients is giving way to an understanding that ''it's OK to tell the patient the whole story," said Dr. Paul Barach, an anesthesiologist and patient safety researcher at the University of Miami. It is ''a huge sea change as far as our relationships with patients."
And it's working: "The hospitals in the University of Michigan Health System have been encouraging doctors since 2002 to apologize for mistakes. The system's annual attorney fees have since dropped from $3 million to $1 million, and malpractice lawsuits and notices of intent to sue have fallen from 262 filed in 2001 to about 130 per year, said Rick Boothman, a former trial attorney who launched the practice there."
While it probably wouldn't be a topic of huge interest to pharma in terms of commercial support, I would think the insurance companies would be shoving to get into line to support this type of education.
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