Patients' Experiences With Communication-and-Resolution Programs After Medical Injury

JAMA Intern Med. 2017 Nov 1;177(11):1595-1603. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.4002.


Importance: Dissatisfaction with medical malpractice litigation has stimulated interest by health care organizations in developing alternatives to meet patients' needs after medical injury. In communication-and-resolution programs (CRPs), hospitals and liability insurers communicate with patients about adverse events, use investigation findings to improve patient safety, and offer compensation when substandard care caused harm. Despite increasing interest in this approach, little is known about patients' and family members' experiences with CRPs.

Objective: To explore the experiences of patients and family members with medical injuries and CRPs to understand different aspects of institutional responses to injury that promoted and impeded reconciliation.

Design, setting, and participants: From January 6 through June 30, 2016, semistructured interviews were conducted with patients (n = 27), family members (n = 3), and staff (n = 10) at 3 US hospitals that operate CRPs. Patients and families were eligible for participation if they experienced a CRP, spoke English, and could no longer file a malpractice claim because they had accepted a settlement or the statute of limitations had expired. The CRP administrators identified hospital and insurer staff who had been involved in a CRP event and had a close relationship with the injured patient and/or family. They identified patients and families by applying the inclusion criteria to their CRP databases. Of 66 possible participants, 40 interviews (61%) were completed, including 30 of 50 invited patients and families (60%) and 10 of 16 invited staff (63%).

Main outcomes and measures: Patients' reported satisfaction with disclosure and reconciliation efforts made by hospitals.

Results: A total of 40 participants completed interviews (15 men and 25 women; mean [range] age, 46 [18-67] years). Among the 30 patients and family members interviewed, 27 patients experienced injuries attributed to error and received compensation. The CRP experience was positive overall for 18 of the 30 patients and family members, and 18 patients continued to receive care at the hospital. Satisfaction was highest when communications were empathetic and nonadversarial, including compensation negotiations. Patients and families expressed a strong need to be heard and expected the attending physician to listen without interrupting during conversations about the event. Thirty-five of the 40 respondents believed that including plaintiffs' attorneys in these discussions was helpful. Sixteen of the 30 patients and family members deemed their compensation to be adequate but 17 reported that the offer was not sufficiently proactive. Patients and families strongly desired to know what the hospital did to prevent recurrences of the event, but 24 of 30 reported receiving no information about safety improvement efforts.

Conclusions and relevance: As hospitals strive to provide more patient-centered care, opportunities exist to improve institutional responses to injuries and promote reconciliation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Communication*
  • Compensation and Redress
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Negotiating
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Safety*
  • Patient-Centered Care / organization & administration*
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Risk Management
  • United States