Conflict Resolution in Healthcare
In particular, we look closely at non-adversarial responses to adverse medical events (AME) in both a legal and medical context. Examination of both contexts will assist in promoting and sustaining the valuable, growing synergy between law and healthcare, which provides the opportunity to expand and enhance communication with patients/clients. Although we look at these practices in the narrow context of AME, the concepts we discuss apply across the board in most areas of healthcare conflict resolution. Our discussion is intended to assist the reader in rethinking and expanding our traditional practices as lawyers to include non-adversarial approaches; at the very least, we hope to create an awareness of possibilities in both law and healthcare using new thinking, new language, and new ideas.
Kathleen Clark calls on both lawyers and doctors to think differently about how each group attempts to resolve conflicts after an adverse medical events. In sum, she advocates preventing con- flicts from arising by building trust through sensitive early communications after such events. She also describes the detrimental effect of non-communication on the patient, the family, and the healthcare practitioners. She describes how one hospital CEO, through communication and authenticity, was able to turn a tragic litigation case into a situation where healing began for all parties.
Ruth Rickard continues the theme of healing, describing two successful systems that use collaborative processes after an adverse medical event (AME). Both succeed in providing open communication about what happened, apology and compensation if warranted, faster resolution, and lower costs. She also describes her lone-wolf attempt at using collaborative methods in a case of hers; though unsuccessful in persuading the healthcare side to collaborate, she shares lessons learned, and thoughts on how we might overcome barriers and move forward in adopting methods that get the parties more of what they want.
This article was completed in 2015 and first published in 2018 by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section of the State Bar of Texas, as a chapter in its ADR Handbook (subscription required), under a limited-use license granted by the authors. All remaining rights are reserved by Kathy Clark and Ruth Rickard. No part of these materials may be reproduced in any form or for any other purpose without the written consent of Kathy Clark and Ruth Rickard. It is posted here with the express authorization of the authors.
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