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Following a Medical Injury, Hospitals Need to Better Communicate Findings, Resolution with Patients: Report

Following medical malpractice or an injury caused by mistakes during treatment, better communication with patients is key to helping them cope with and resolve the medical injury, according to the findings of a new study. 

In a report published last week in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Australian researchers indicate that overall, patients reported having positive experiences after a medical injury, but there was room for improvement because the doctors and staff often show a lack of empathy concerning the issue, and fail to communicate information about how the underlying cause of the mistake was resolved to prevent recurrence with other patients.

Researchers interviewed 40 patients, family members, and hospital staff who had been a part of a patient injury due to a medical mistake. Interviews were conducted January 6, 2016, through June 30, 2016, at three U.S. hospitals which operate communication and resolution programs (CRPs).

A total of 30 patients and family members were included, 27 patients who experienced injuries attributed to medical error received compensation for the injury.

A total of 60% of patient and family member participants, 18 of 30, reported positive experiences with communication and resolution programs at hospitals. Those patients continued to receive care at the hospital where the medical injury initially occurred.

Overall, patient satisfaction was highest when communication from the hospital and staff were “empathetic and non-adversarial,” including negotiations concerning compensation for the medical malpractice injury.

Researchers also concluded patients have a strong need to be heard after suffering a medical malpractice injury. This need is often unmet by hospitals and doctors. Most patients and their families expected their doctor to listen to their concerns without interrupting during those conversations about the injury event.

Patients and families also reported hospitals rarely communicated information about efforts to prevent medical injury recurrences. The majority of patients and families surveyed believed it was helpful to involve an attorney in the discussions concerning their medical malpractice injury.

About 50%, or 16 of the 30 patient and family respondents said their conversations with the hospital were ”adequate.”

Of the 30 patient and family members interviewed, 17 respondents reported the monetary offer concerning the injury was not “sufficiently proactive.”

Patients and families also really wanted to know what the hospital planned to do to prevent the same injury from happening again to other patients, but hospitals often failed to communicate this. Of the 30 patient and family members, 24 respondents said they received no additional or follow-up information about safety improvement efforts.

Researchers indicated there were significant opportunities available for hospitals to provide responses to patients and family members concerning medical injuries. The responses should be more patient-focused and highlight empathy for the patient injury and experience, they concluded.

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