Medical research and technology are constantly evolving and advancing, making the general prognostic landscape more promising than ever for patients. Still, those who provide and manage treatment are, and always will be, human beings—making occasional medical errors a continual reality. What can change is the way the organizations and people involved address adverse events, and fortunately, that is just what is happening. An increasing number of Massachusetts hospitals are handling medical injuries with CARe (Communication, Apology and Resolution)—a healthy alternative to an often painful status quo.
A revolutionary initiative
In 2012, several of the state’s notable medical organizations—including teaching hospitals and their insurers, patient advocacy groups and statewide provider associations—joined to form the Massachusetts Alliance for Communication and Resolution following Medical Injury (MACRMI). MACRMI developed and helps hospitals to implement CARe (based on similar programs in other states), offering effective protocols to:
- Communicate with patients and families when unanticipated adverse outcomes occur
- Investigate and explain what happened
- Implement systems to avoid recurrences of incidents and improve patient safety
- Where appropriate, apologize and offer fair financial compensation without the patient having to file a lawsuit
The incentive for MACRMI’s formation and mission is simple: Our current medical liability system is problematic across the board. Daunted by the expense, emotional risk and sheer complexity of it, very few patients ever pursue a lawsuit, even when the harm they suffered seemed clearly preventable. Yet, the threat of litigation forces providers and healthcare organizations to operate defensively and even with secrecy, while paying sometimes exorbitant insurance premiums for protection. In short, the traditional model of “justice” for a harmed patient creates an unhealthy, inherently adversarial situation in which no one truly wins.
CARe provides an effective and much-needed new option. Its components promote everything the current system lacks or even resists: timely communication, transparency, compassionate support and formal efforts to learn from mistakes. These practices not only help keep parties out of court but ultimately improve patient safety and help to control healthcare costs.
How CARe works
A hospital that has adopted the CARe program is committed to working with a patient and their family following a medical injury, and that includes encouraging them to involve an attorney. Kevin Chrisanthopoulos is proud to be included on MACMRI’s short list of suggested attorneys, all of whom have completed an education session and pledged to follow the Best Practices for Attorneys Representing Patients in the CARe Process.
Stages of the CARe process generally include:
- A medical provider or hospital representative immediately explains all known details about the event, its potential effects, and plans to support the patient and family. Communication is ongoing throughout the process.
- The facility conducts an investigation into the injury, and the patient safety team determines whether medical management caused the adverse outcome.
- Representatives explain the findings of the investigation to the patient and family. If the hospital or provider did make a medical error, financial compensation may be offered at this time. The hospital will also explain that rigorous study of this case will be part of a comprehensive patient safety improvement effort.
CARe-qualified, MACMRI experienced
As soon as disclosure occurs, it’s time to contact a CARe-qualified medical malpractice attorney. Your attorney has a wealth of experience in these matters and should attend all meetings throughout the process. It’s also important to note that CARe does not remove litigation as an option; as MACRMI notes, it “makes tort a last resort.”
It is never easy to learn that you or a loved one has suffered a medical injury, especially one that may have been preventable. If it happens, the first step is to find out how we can help. In partnership with MACRMI and its participating hospitals and providers, KC Law is continually working to make those next steps manageable and productive—and to create a system that puts patient safety first.