Physicians and Hospitals Take the Lead on Professional Liability Reform

By Richard V. Aghababian, MD
MMS President

A feature article in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine this week on the power of apology in medical settings provides the opportunity to highlight the exemplary work that the medical community is doing to proactively fix our broken medical liability system, and improve patient safety.

For more than six years, physicians from the MMS and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have been working together to develop an extensive roadmap for medical liability reform. Their work culminated in the establishment of the Communications, Apology and Resolution (CARe) program last year.

It provides patients who have experienced medical harm with full disclosure of what happened and why, along with an explanation of what will be done to prevent a recurrence.

When it is determined that the event was avoidable, the program encourages physicians and providers to offer a sincere apology without fear of it being used against them in litigation, accompanied by an offer of appropriate compensation for their injury. This process does not deny patients the right to bring legal action; it would make tort claims a last resort.

Today, six hospitals are engaged in a pilot program to test-drive the idea. Hospitals, insurers, and patients’ groups have formed the Massachusetts Alliance for Communication and Resolution Following Medical Injury, which is dedicated to supporting and fostering this approach throughout the state. Physicians and lawyers worked together to codify these reforms in state legislation, a key feature of the health care law enacted here in Massachusetts last year.

In short, these reforms are precisely what the Boston Globe’s author advocates for. We’re very proud to be a leader in this effort.

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