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Data from case studies support the fact that apologies from physicians to patients promote reconciliation and forgiveness. To promote a culture that supports apologizing and disclosure, 39 states, including Washington, D.C., are enacting apology policies to decrease the litigation problems surrounding medical malpractice. This article is delves into the implications surrounding the enactment of these laws. The article is divided into four parts. The first part of the article explains why states are passing apology laws and how they can help reduce lawsuits associated with medical malpractice. The second part presents data that supports the effectiveness of apology laws. The third part illustrates how apology laws affect various legal outcomes, especially the probability that medical providers will be presented with litigation fees. The fourth part of the article delves into the legal significance of their results. It is important to note that apology laws do not replace communication-and-resolution programs (CRPs), nor do they mitigate the existing data that these programs are effective in lowering the incidence rates of medical error claims.

Improving how health care providers respond to medical injury requires an understanding of patients’ experiences. Although many injured patients strongly desire to be heard, research rarely involves them. Institutional review boards worry about harming participants by asking them to revisit traumatic events, and hospital staff worry about provoking lawsuits. Institutions’ reluctance to approve this type of research has slowed progress toward responses to injuries that are better able to meet patients’ needs. In 2015-2016, we were able to surmount these challenges and interview 92 injured patients and families in the USA and New Zealand. This article explores whether the ethical and medico-legal concerns are, in fact, well-founded. Consistent with research about trauma-research-related distress, our participants’ accounts indicate that the pervasive fears about retraumatization are unfounded. Our experience also suggests that because being heard is an important (but often unmet) need for injured patients, talking provides psychological benefits and may decrease rather than increase the impetus to sue. Our article makes recommendations to institutional review boards and researchers. The benefits to responsibly conducted research with injured patients outweigh the risks to participants and institutions.

After Patient Ms. W received surgery on the wrong-site in her neck to relieve neck pain, she soon experienced adverse health effects, such as pain, distress, and lack of trust in healthcare providers. Ms. W’s experience illustrates the lack of communication between physicians and patients. The discrepancy is poor physician communication and refusal of apologizing for malpractice is due to fear of litigation. To improve patient-physician communication, health systems are encouraged to implement programs that encourage disclosure among healthcare professionals and trainees to improve overall healthcare quality.

The root causes of medical malpractice claims are deeper and closer to home than most in the medical community care to admit. The University of Michigan Health System’s experience suggests that a response by the medical community more directly aimed at what drives patients to call lawyers would effectively reduce claims, without compromising meritorious defenses. More importantly, honest assessments of medical care give rise to clinical improvements that reduce patient injuries. Using a true case example, this article compares the traditional approach to claims with what is being done at the University of Michigan. The case example illustrates how an honest, principle-driven approach to claims is better for all those involved—the patient, the healthcare providers, the institution, future patients, and even the lawyers.

Incident reporting systems (IRS) are used to identify medical errors in order to learn from mistakes and improve patient safety in hospitals. However, IRS contain only a small fraction of occurring incidents. A more comprehensive overview of medical error in hospitals may be obtained by combining information from multiple sources. The WHO has developed the International Classification for Patient Safety (ICPS) in order to enable comparison of incident reports from different sources and institutions. Incident reports collected from IRS, patient complaints and retrospective chart review in an academic acute care hospital were classified using the ICPS. In conclusion, IRS do not capture all incidents in hospitals and should be combined with complementary information about diagnostic error and delayed treatment from patient complaints and retrospective chart review. Since incidents that are not recorded in IRS do not lead to remedial and preventive action in response to IRS reports, healthcare centres that have access to different incident detection methods should harness information from all sources to improve patient safety.


The nature and consequences of patient and family emotional harm stemming from preventable medical error, such as losing a loved one or surviving serious medical injury, is poorly understood. Patients and families, clinicians, social scientists, lawyers, and foundation/policy leaders were brought together to establish research priorities for this issue during a one-day conference. They discussed pertinent issues, patient and family experiences after serious harmful events, including profound isolation, psychological distress, damaging aspects of medical culture, health care aversion, and negative effects on communities. The group also created a strategy for overcoming research barriers and actionable “Do Now” approaches to improve the patient and family experience while research is ongoing.

CRP resource or tool (e.g. CANDOR)
A Roadmap for Patients and Families in the Center of Healthcare

The Roadmap for Patient and Family Engagement in Healthcare Practice and Research was created as a call to action for anyone interested in advancing work related to patient and family engagement. It includes eight change strategies and five simple actions to increase patient and family involvement in the improvement and implementation of extraordinary healthcare.


This article discusses the negative connotations that surround the term “second victim,” which is used to describe healthcare providers following their involvement in a adverse medical incident. Authors of this article persuade people to stop using this term, since it discourages healthcare providers from taking responsibility for their actions, as well as undermines the patient’s feelings and situation.

This article discusses the prevalence of disruptive behavior in the healthcare setting, which is defined as any act that influences a group’s intended outcome. Disruptive behavior often takes the form of angry outbursts and passive aggressive actions, especially in extremely stressful environments, such as emergency rooms. This behavior is often detrimental to the culture of safety and quality healthcare, as well as increases the risk of lawsuits. To combat disruptive behavior, five principles are are offered as guides to promoting professionalism and professional accountability in support of quality team-oriented care, patient safety and, if necessary, legal defense if disruptive colleagues challenge disciplinary interventions. 

Reference to primary CRP related organization (e.g. CAI website)
Web resource/Digital Article
General website that contains CRP related information, may be non-specific or general or mixed resources on a website. Article published on-line. Not available as paper version.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is the lead Federal agency charged with improving the safety and quality of America’s health care system. AHRQ develops the knowledge, tools, and data needed to improve the health care system and help Americans, health care professionals, and policymakers make informed health decisions.

Web resource/Digital Article
General website that contains CRP related information, may be non-specific or general or mixed resources on a website. Article published on-line. Not available as paper version.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Primer: Patient Safety Event Reporting

Incident reporting is the most common method used to promote patient safety in healthcare settings. This method requires those involved in the event go complete an incident form, which is a detailed summary of the occurrence. There are key components that make incident reporting systems effective and successful. To be successful, the incidence form should be submitted in a timely manner and be disseminated among an array of healthcare professionals.

Web resource/Digital Article
General website that contains CRP related information, may be non-specific or general or mixed resources on a website. Article published on-line. Not available as paper version.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): Advances in Patient Safety

Advances in Patient Safety: From Research to Implementation describes what federally funded programs have accomplished in understanding medical errors and implementing programs to improve patient safety over the last five years. This compendium is sponsored jointly by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Department of Defense (DoD)-Health Affairs. The 140 articles in the 4-volume set cover a wide range of research paradigms, clinical settings, and patient populations. Where the research is complete, the findings are presented; where the research is still in process, the articles report on its progress. In addition to articles with a research and methodological focus, the compendium includes articles that address implementation issues or present useful tools and products that can be used to improve patient safety.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHQR) developed the CANDOR (Communication and Optimal Resolution) Event Checklist, which is a guide to be used by the CANDOR team after an adverse event occurred in the healthcare setting. The checklist includes effective ways of reporting, assessing, investigating, and analyzing the adverse event to decrease the likelihood of future incidents occurring, as well as improving the overall quality of patient care and safety.

The CANDOR Event Review Report Template is a guide used to analyze and investigate barriers that contributed to an adverse health event. Barriers include poor communication behaviors, unsafe physical environment, inadequate care, and equipment device failure. This template also includes a guide to assess who was responsible for the adverse event, and ways to develop solutions for it so it.

CRP resource or tool (e.g. CANDOR)
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): CANDOR Toolkit

The Communication and Optimal Resolution (CANDOR) process is used  by health care institutions and practitioners to respond in a timely, thorough, and just way when unexpected events cause patient harm. The CANDOR toolkit contains eight different modules, which contain PowerPoint slides with facilitator notes, tools, resources, or videos. Examples of modules include “Care for the Caregiver” and “Organizational Learning and Stability.” These modules focus on effective ways to reduce patient harm and increase overall healthcare quality and safety through family and patient engagement, as well as specific ways to decrease the risk of future adverse outcomes.

The Guide to Patient and Family Engagement in Hospital Quality and Safety was developed by the for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to encourage patient and family involvement in healthcare quality and safety. This guide includes four key methods as follows:

  • Encourage patients and family members to participate as advisers.
  • Promote better communication among patients, family members, and health care professionals from the point of admission.
  • Implement safe continuity of care by keeping the patient and family informed through nurse bedside change-of-shift reports.
  • Engage patients and families in discharge planning throughout the hospital stay.

Web resource/Digital Article
General website that contains CRP related information, may be non-specific or general or mixed resources on a website. Article published on-line. Not available as paper version.
American Medical Association: State medical liability reform

Read how the AMA pursues medical liability laws on the state level to reshape the current medical liability system to better serve both physicians and patients.

CRP related video, movie
Annie’s Story

“Annie’s Story” is an example of how healthcare organizations seeking high reliability embrace a just culture in all they do. This includes a system’s approach to analyzing near misses and harm events—looking to analyze events without the knee-jerk blame and shame approach of old. This video specifically focused on Nurse Andrea’s personal experience with an adverse health event with a patient who underwent a hypoglycemic emergency due to a misreading of a glucometer. The video then details the steps she and the hospital took to prevent future adverse health events, as well as other ways to increase overall patient safety and quality.

Journal Article
Published articles related to CRP
Balancing “no blame” with accountability in patient safety

This article explains the challenge of balancing accountability and a “no blame” model in healthcare systems when promoting patient safety. Accountability is defined as taking responsibility for one’s actions. In this article, it is taking responsibility for malpractice that increases patient harm. the “no blame” model is defined as not accusing a single entity for any healthcare misconduct. It is important for healthcare systems to embody both taking responsibility for healthcare malpractices as well as the “no blame” model to effectively promote patient safety and quality and reduce adverse health events.

Communication-and-resolution programs (CRPs) aim to increase disclosure, learning, and responsibility following adverse medical incidents. The authors of this article identify five obstacles that prevent CRPs from being successful: 1) public policy, 2) compensation for patients following medical errors, 3) application fidelity, 4) evidence of CRPs increasing patient safety, and 5) alignment of CRP methods with patient needs. To increase the success of CRPs, it is recommended that they should be coupled with CRP quality programs. Overall, health institutions are advised to implement these programs into their systems to promote transparency and patient and family engagement.

CRP resource or tool (e.g. CANDOR)
Canadian Patient Safety Institute: Patient Safety Management Toolkit

From the Canadian Patient Safety Institute

Prevent Patient Safety Incidents and Minimize Harm When They Do Occur
When a patient’s safety is compromised, or even if someone just comes close to having an incident, you need to know you are taking the right measures to address it, now and in the future. CPSI provides you with practical strategies and resources to manage incidents effectively and keep your patients safe. This integrated toolkit considers the needs and concerns of patients and their families, and how to properly engage them throughout the process.

Drawn from the best available evidence and expert advice, this newly designed toolkit is for those responsible for managing patient safety, quality improvement, risk management, and staff training in any healthcare setting.

Journal Article
Published articles related to CRP
CANDOR: The Antidote to Deny and Defend? Richard C. Boothman

This article explains how healthcare providers and insurers were skeptical of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Communication (AHQR) Communication and Optimal Resolution (CANDOR) toolkit, which is a guide for healthcare providers to use if there was patient injury. Healthcare providers and insurers are weary of the CANDOR toolkit, since it does not quickly fix litigation scandals. This toolkit also does not effectively identify patient safety risks. However, the CANDOR toolkit is an effective step for healthcare providers to take in being honest and transparent with their patients about any malpractice or increased risk of injury.

The “Second Victim Rapid Response Team” was a system created to provide psychological, social, and emotional support for healthcare providers who are known”second victims” in the wake of any adverse health outcome or compromise in patient safety.


Communication and Resolution Programs (CRPs) investigate and and communicate about events not caused by substandard care. CRPs were quite successful in handling such events, but less consistent in offering compensation in cases involving substandard care.

CRP resource or tool (e.g. CANDOR)
CDC large-scale adverse event (LSAE) patient notification toolkit

The Patient Notification Toolkit was developed to address injection and contagion control malpractice, which occurs in various healthcare settings, such hospitals, and assisted living facilities. These incidents compromise the patients’ health by increasing their risk of infection. When healthcare malpractices or resulting infections are exposed, patients are notified through a detailed process carried out by state and local health departments or healthcare facilities.

Operating communication and resolution programs (CRPs) where multiple organizations must collaborate can be highly challenging. Success likely requires several preconditions, including preexisting trust among organizations, active leadership engagement, physicians’ commitment to participate, mechanisms for quickly transmitting information to insurers, tolerance for missteps, and clear protocols for joint investigations and resolutions.

The Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management published study of an “open” hospital system shows that a Collaboration Communication-and-Resolution Program (CRP) cut lawsuits by two-thirds and reduced legal expenses and the time needed to resolve claims. Due to this program’s success, physicians are encouraged to integrate CRPs into their health practices to increase overall patient health quality and safety.


Among patients with chest pain, the implementation of a comprehensive communication-and-resolution program was associated with substantially reduced growth rates in the use of diagnostic testing and imaging services. Further research is needed to establish to what extent these changes were attributable to the program and clinically appropriate.

This study analyzed if a communication-and-resolution program (CRP) was effective in lowering adverse events among patients with chest pain, as well as lowering medical costs. The study concluded that the implementation of the CRP was efficient, since it helped increase the number of chest pain diagnoses as well as significantly reduced associated health costs.

Journal Article
Published articles related to CRP
Choosing Strategies for Change

The rapid rate of change in the world of management continues to escalate. New government regulations, new products, growth, increased competition, technological developments, and an evolving workforce compel organizations to undertake at least moderate change on a regular basis. Yet few major changes are greeted with open arms by employers and employees; they often result in protracted transitions, deadened morale, emotional upheaval, and the costly dedication of managerial time. Kotter and Schlesinger help calm the chaos by identifying four basic reasons why people resist change and offering various methods for overcoming resistance.