The development of patient safety while minimizing medical errors is a standard goal for everybody involved in the healthcare industry. It is an objective shared by patients, healthcare providers and even attorneys across the board. However, in relation to determining the “how and why” of this medical errors, everyone ends up in disagreement. When that happens, litigation is usually the top result. For better outcomes, using alternative types of dispute resolution, especially when coping with healthcare issues, have been statistically proven to be more successful.
Using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in healthcare present several benefits to everyone involved in the dispute. Beyond encouraging disclosure between doctors and patients, ADR also reduces cost and contributes towards better patient safety when used properly. This is excellent news to everyone across the healthcare spectrum especially in situations where preventable bad outcomes occur. Questioning doctors is usually the tendency of family members whose loved one was affected by a negative outcome. Though doctors are usually lax about divulging information and the treatment process to members of the family, they become hesitant to talk in potential litigation situations. Through ADR, families can learn about what happened in a forum where doctors are free to speak about case facts without fear of litigation.
ADR assures that family members won’t be questioning the circumstances and feeling backed right into a corner, which is what happens when doctors don’t need to discuss what happened. To obtain details and to realize closure, these families might use litigation as a final resort. Structuring communication that provides individuals with the knowledge they need to know what has happened, becomes easier when all details of the negative event have been disclosed. Over the years, different hospitals have developed various models for resolving healthcare disputes with ADR.
In 1995, Rush Medical Center in Chicago developed a technique of co-mediation called the Rush Model. The resolution rate for this model is 80 percent of the cases handled in the first year. This model’s success is predicated on its process that guarantees plaintiff satisfaction. A mediation agreement that contains confidentiality clauses, brief presentations by each side and a definition for finality is drafted. This is step one. The plaintiffs then select the mediators that can handle the case.
Another successful model is used by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It includes a mandated apology by the chief of staff and full disclosure of case facts. Negotiations between the designated medical center staff and the plaintiffs continue until the plaintiffs are satisfied with fair compensation.