Comment from Road: Disclosure Not Documented!
I was recently giving a Sorry Works! presentation when a nurse in the audience who does legal consulting made the following comment:
“I know disclosure is becoming more and more popular. We are hearing more about it every day, which is good. However, when I am reviewing cases for my law firm I never see any evidence of disclosure or disclosure-related activities in any of the charts or records, which is bad. Sure, the doctors and nurses claim they disclosed, empathized, etc, but there is zero evidence, so we have to assume disclosure did not happen.”
This is an important comment. Look, at Sorry Works! we don’t claim to know or understand the documentation procedures of your hospital or practice — but we do know that disclosure needs to be part of your documentation process! If not, the nurse-consultant, claims manager, or attorney reviewing your case is going to have comments similar to the one above. And this is sad because, at the minimum, disclosure is about building strong evidence for a great defense. Sure, disclosure stops a lot of litigation before it even gets started (including in tragic cases involving crippling injuries or death), but there will be times where people disagree or get the wrong impression, and litigation will ensue. There will be times when the care was good but the outcome bad, and despite your disclosure efforts, the family still files a lawsuit. It happens. However, for your sake, I hope you have documented your post-event conversations, meetings, service recovery efforts, etc. Everything.I once had a physician tell me about a case where he believed the care was good, but the patient died, and he wanted to send a sympathy card to the widow. I encouraged him to send the card. A little later in the conversation I could see the doctor was still uneasy, I asked what was the matter, and he said he is concerned the widow might file a lawsuit. I encouraged the doctor to document all post-event communications and efforts, including making a copy of the sympathy card and asking his lawyer where to file the copy.
Now, some folks may recoil at the notion of photocopying a sympathy card, or writing down that you visited the funeral home, or making note of every phone call to the patient or family, BUT I know that patients and families can sometimes be unfair and cruel. “I never saw the card….no, he never called me after my child died. That jerk doctor kicked me to the curb like I was garbage.” It happens. Look, doctors are not the only folks who sometimes behave badly post-event. You need to protect yourself.
The killer for many clinicians in a trial is looking like they didn’t care post-event or that they abandoned the patient/family — everything disclosure is not. So, figure out how to document this stuff and do it!
This is a great way to get your defense lawyers involved in your disclosure program. How do they want this information handled? Where should the information be recorded? And, frankly, involving defense counsel in these conversations is how you to start to convert them to disclosure, because one of the great frustrations for defense lawyers is sloppy, incomplete records compounded by clinicians who don’t remember.
HEY, Fall is right around the corner. Kids are back in school, vacations are over, time to get back to work…and time to schedule a Sorry Works! presentation for your hospital, insurer, or association. For more information on Sorry Works! presentations, call 618-559-8168 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.