Communication-and-resolution programs: the challenges and lessons learned from six early adopters.
When a patient is a victim of an error, hospitals have traditionally followed a "deny and defend" strategy, providing limited information to the patient and family and avoiding admissions of fault—or even admission that an error occurred. This approach has long been criticized for its lack of patient-centeredness, and in response some institutions have begun to implement communication-and-response strategies that emphasize early disclosure of adverse events and proactive attempts to resolve the situation. This study reviews six institutions' experiences with two types of communication-and-response strategies: early settlement programs (in which errors are fully disclosed and an offer of compensation is made, along with investigation of safety issues) and limited reimbursement programs (which provided limited compensation to patients with concerns about their care, but explicitly exclude more severe errors). Through structured interviews with key participants, the authors identify crucial regulatory, legal, and practical issues with implementing these programs. They emphasize that such programs should be viewed as part of an effort to improve safety culture and that transparency and a blame-free approach are essential to obtaining support (especially from physicians). The complex intersection between error disclosure and malpractice is explored further in an AHRQ WebM&M perspective.