Apologies boost provider reputation, don't increase lawsuit risk, study reveals

Share this content:
OIG and CMS: Hospital admission rates show need for new nursing home quality measure
OIG and CMS: Hospital admission rates show need for new nursing home quality measure

When healthcare providers tell patients about medical errors that happened under their care, the patient is twice as likely to recommend that provider to someone else than if they had not been told about the mistake. However, the disclosure does not seem to have an effect either way with regard to the filing of lawsuits, according to a study published in the journal Medical Care.

Admitting a mistake does two valuable things, the study's lead investigator, Lorens A. Helmchen, PhD, told American Medical News.

"One is that you just made a mistake, and the other is that you are prepared to disclose it to the patient,” Helmchen said. “The fear is that this will lead to more lawsuits, and we did not find any evidence that patients would be any more likely to sue if this was disclosed to them.”

In 2008, as part of this three-year study, Helmchen surveyed 1,018 adults in Illinois, focusing primarily on medical errors that occur in hospitals. Investigators also wanted to find out if a disclosure–and-compensation model could work in other area hospitals as well as it did at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago.

A similar nine-year study in the University of Michigan Health System found that liability costs fell and cases were resolved quicker when a disclosure policy was in place.