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Study Finds Patients Satisfied With Communication-and-Resolution Programs

Jaime Rosenberg
Dissatisfied with the litigation process, patients find satisfaction in communication-and-resolution programs, according to a recent study.
Patients tend to be satisfied with communication-and-resolution programs following medical injury, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

“The misery of medical malpractice litigation for all involved has made hospitals keenly interested in resolving medical injuries with patients before claims are made,” wrote the authors.

Hospitals have initiated communication-and-resolution programs (CRPs) with the intentions of communicating with patients about the medical injury, using findings from investigations to advance patient safety, and offering compensation.

The study interviewed 40 patients, family members, and hospital staff from January 6 through June 30, 2016, from 3 different hospitals that use CRPs. For 18 of the 30 patients and family members, the CRP was an overall positive experience and they continued to receive care at the hospital. Only 2 respondents felt the program was unfair.

Interview questions were structured in a way that focused on the patient’s injury experience, the hospital’s response, and the relationships between the patients and clinicians as well as the hospital following the injury.

After interviewing patients and family members, the authors of the study identified what aspects of the hospitals' CRPs led to reconciliation.

The majority of the patients favored initial contact from the hospital being a letter or e-mail rather than a phone call because it felt less intrusive. They also noted the importance of physical privacy following the medical injury.

Of the 30 patients, 19 said that contact from risk management staff made them suspicious of the hospital’s intentions. All 40 of the interviewees highlighted the importance of having the right people present for early conversations, including the attending physician.

Patients and family members expressed the need to be heard by the hospital while having conversations and felt that having a plaintiff’s attorney present was beneficial. They said that being able to tell their story and being asked about the outcome they hoped for proved useful.

When it came to compensation, 16 of the 27 patients and family members who received any compensation were satisfied. Those who were not satisfied with the compensation tended to be dissatisfied with the overall communication process.

“The key informants’ accounts revealed several recommendations for hospitals’ responses to patients and family members affected by medical injuries,” wrote the authors.

Based on the interviews, the authors outlined several practices that are needed in order to adequately serve patients’ needs after medical injury: consistently communicating patient safety efforts, getting the right people in the room, anticipating families’ immediate financial needs, asking about involving children, and valuing small gestures.

“The CRP movement is young with much room to grow,” concluded the authors. “Listening to patients illuminates the way forward.”

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