How Policy Makers Can Smooth The Way For Communication-And- Resolution Programs
Author: William M. Sage, Thomas H. Gallagher, Sarah Armstrong, Janet S. Cohn, Timothy McDonald, Jane Gale, Alan C. Woodward, Michelle M. Mello
Communication-and-resolution programs (CRPs) in health care organizations seek to identify medical injuries promptly; ensure that they are disclosed to patients compassionately; pursue timely resolution through patient engagement, explanation, and, where appropriate, apology and compensation; and use lessons learned to improve patient safety. CRPs have existed for years, but they are being tested in new settings and primed for broad implementation through grants from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. These projects do not require changing laws. However, grantees’ experiences suggest that the path to successful dissemination of CRPs would be smoother if the legal environment supported them. State and federal policy makers should try to allay potential defendants’ fears of litigation (for example, by protecting apologies from use in court), facilitate patient participation (for example, by ensuring access to legal representation), and address the reputational and economic concerns of health care providers (for example, by clarifying practices governing National Practitioner Data Bank reporting and payers’ financial recourse following medical error).