UNSW Law’s Dr Jennifer Moore, who earlier this month was the runner-up for the KPMG Inspiring Teacher in a First Year Undergraduate Program Award, has collaborated with Dr Marie Bismark (University of Melbourne) and Professor Michelle Mello (Stanford), on a paper exploring the opportunities that exist for healthcare institutions and policymakers to develop and improve on patient-centered responses to medical injuries, as an alternative to medical malpractice litigation.

The paper, Patients’ Experiences with Communication-and-Resolution Programs After Medical Injury*, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, looked at patient experiences with ‘communication and resolution programs’, also known as CRPs, after they had experienced medical injury or serious issues in care. The research included interviews with patients, family members and staff at three US hospitals that operate communication and resolution programs.

CRPs aim to meet patient safety goals and liability cost reduction goals by providing meaningful disclosures, apologies and proactive compensation offers to patients rather than waiting for the patient to take legal action.

Identifying feasible, cost-effective, ethically acceptable approaches to resolving medical malpractice incidents without recourse to litigation is an issue that attracts keen interest from policymakers and healthcare institutions alike.

For example, the United States Government Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, recently invested millions in developing a toolkit to scale up the communication and resolution approach for nationwide implementation. Despite such investments, very little is known about patients’ experiences with alternative medical injury resolution processes as institutions are reluctant to approve this type of research.

Hospitals are concerned that research may provoke legal action. However, the results of Moore, Bismark and Mello’s research should ease such fears and encourage institutions to reach out to injured patients. 

You can listen to a podcast with authors Professor Michelle Mello and Dr Jennifer Moore on the JAMA Internal Medicine podcast here.  

*This paper reports the results from the US data collection. The results from the New Zealand study were published earlier this year in the BMJ Quality and Safety.