Honesty about medical errors doesn't boost hospitals' liability risk, study finds

Although many hospitals are concerned programs that promote open communication with patients about medical errors could result in increased liability costs, a study published in Health Affairs found these initiatives did not increase a hospital's liability risk.

Through these initiatives, often called communication-and-resolution programs, hospitals investigate the specifics of adverse events, provide explanations to patients and offer compensation when needed.

The study authors assessed the liability effects of communication-and-resolution programs at four Massachusetts hospitals. One of these programs, known as Communication, Apology, and Resolution, or CARe, was implemented at the hospitals in the study.  

The researchers found the program let hospitals fulfill their ethical duties to disclose adverse events and promote patient safety without experiencing negative liability consequences.

"Our hope is that with these findings, more hospitals will have greater confidence that communicating openly with patients around errors and injury is not likely to create greater liability risk," said Allen Kachalia, MD, chief quality officer at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital and first author on the paper.

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