Massachusetts Hopes Apology Approach Will Reduce Medical Malpractice Insurance Premiums

Last week, the Massachusetts Medical Society announced that six of its top healthcare organizations would be launching a new initiative aimed at improving the commonwealth’s medical liability system and lowering the cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums.

The new initiative is titled, “Roadmap to Reform,” and it is based on the Disclosure, Apology and Offer approach to claim closure. According to the Massachusetts Medical Society, the initiative is expected to improve patient safety, increase transparency, reduce the amount of litigation and cut the overall cost of Massachusetts’ the healthcare system.

Seven hospitals will be participating in this year’s pilot program. Input for the pilot program was received from the Massachusetts Medical Society, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Bay State Health, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, Massachusetts Hospital Association and Medically Induced Trauma Support Services.

Under the Disclosure, Apology and Offer approach, when an adverse medical outcome occurs, the hospital, physician and their insurance companies will investigate and explain to the patient and his or her family what happened and why. They will then apologize for the adverse outcome and make an early financial offer to rectify the situation. Most importantly, the hospital and physician will detail to the patient and his or her family what steps will be taken to ensure the error does not occur again in the future.

The Massachusetts Medical Society and the other entities behind the Disclosure, Apology and Offer approach believe that both patients and physicians will regard the new model as being more fair, timely and supportive than the traditional response to adverse events, which is combative, discourages the exchange of statistics and impedes efforts to improve patient safety. They also believe the Disclosure, Apology and Offer approach will lead to quicker resolution of cases and enhance the reporting of medical errors.

In addition to funding from the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, three of the nation’s largest healthcare insurance companies supported the Disclosure, Apology and Offer model’s implementation.