|April 1, 2009|
|'Sorry' Program Puts Dent in Malpractice Suits|
|By Greg Hazley|
|Alec Baldwin brought healthcare hubris and the so-called “God complex” into the public lexicon with his portrayal of an arrogant surgeon in the 1993 film “Malice.” |
Facing a malpractice suit, an agitated Baldwin tells an opposing attorney in a meeting:
“When someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn’t miscarry, or that their daughter doesn’t bleed to death, or that their mother doesn’t suffer acute neural trauma from post-operative shock, who do you think they’re praying to?
"Go ahead and read your bible, Dennis, and you go to your church … but if you’re looking for God, he was in operating room No. 2 on November 17 and he doesn’t like to be second-guessed. You ask me if I have a God complex? Let me tell you something: I am God.”
Sure, that’s a hyperbolic take on the medical masters of the universe, but bring up a long waiting room stint or shoddy treatment in the healthcare arena and chances are you’ll hear a few more stories from those around you.
It’s fair to say that some healthcare professionals – especially doctors – could be a little more forthcoming when mistakes are made. Perhaps even a lesson or two in customer service could generate some goodwill.
A pilot program called “Sorry Works!,” created by an Illinois PR professional, Doug Wojcieszak, is being evaluated by the Medical Society of New Jersey and is a step in the right direction as well as a fine example of PR having a significant effect in the healthcare arena.
Hospitals in the Garden State are reporting solid results (read: fewer malpractice suits) as doctors under the program own up to mistakes and apologize. In the corporate arena, it’s PR 101 – say you’re sorry and move on – but hospitals and doctors have traditionally “lawyered up” immediately when a medical mistake is made to avoid providing ammunition for a suit or nullifying malpractice insurance.
But as the Herald News reported, The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., reports that lawsuits are down more than half since the hospital started its apology program.
“We want to try to do the right thing in these instances and resolve things more amicably, more efficiently and in a better way than blood and guts litigation,” Larry Downs, general counsel for the Medical Society, told the News.
A little PR in the form of honesty and disclosure could go a long way toward loosening the tensions between healthcare facilities, doctors and patients.
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