Insurance Company Trains Doctors To Say They're Sorry (Jan 2nd, 2012 - 10:21 AM)
Physicians Liability Insurance Co. is working to teach Oklahoma physicians to do something they rarely did in the past: say “I'm sorry.”
By Don MeCoy firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: December 18th, 2011
Dr. Carl Hook, the CEO of PLICO, said doctors traditionally have been advised to stop communicating with patients and families when there is a major problem that might lead to litigation.
“Deny and defend was what I was taught,” Hook said. But that policy creates angry patients who feel victimized, and loads guilt on physicians, Hook said.
PLICO offers free training to its clients that instructs them to disclose information to patients and their families any time there is a “bad outcome,” Hook said. The patient should know there will be an investigation to determine who or what caused the problem, he said.
“We want the person that is liable, when it is proven that there is liability, to apologize to the patient and the family,” he said. “That's just showing empathy.”
Dr. Brian Birdwell, a Lawton doctor, said the “I'm sorry” approach is counterintuitive, but it works. Doctors prefer to dwell on patients who thrived under their care, and tend to distance themselves from patients who suffered due to a mistake, Birdwell said.
But doctors who immediately hire a lawyer and stop communicating with patients and families when there is a problem promote the idea that there is something to cover up, Birdwell said.
“Stay with your patient and convey a sense of sorrow that it happened,” he said. “That is not saying, ‘I'm sorry I screwed up.' It's just empathy.”
Birdwell said he regularly takes advantage of PLICO's free training.
“It's just the best thought-out and smartest approach to medical litigation,” he said.
Hook said PLICO was one of the first individual insurance carriers to implement the “Sorry Works” training.
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