Why Don’t Providers Always Communicate with Patients after Adverse Events?

IHI Open School Video Short Transcript

Helen Haskell, MA, mother of Lewis Blackman, a 15-year-old boy who died from medical error, President of Mothers Against Medical Error, and member of the IHI Board of Directors

I think because their attorneys are telling them not to. I think we have a really bad culture of defense attorneys and hospital attorneys that rule people. I don’t want to be beating up a whole class of people — certainly there are exceptions. But in general if you’ve got someone who’s been involved in one of these highly emotional events, a provider, they are afraid. The hospital risk managers can swoop in and say: “This is what you need to do; we have a plan,” and it’s not the plan that you feel you ought to be following, but there’s pressure on you to follow it and you don’t know what to do.

Some people give in, but that has to change. As people are more and more aware of medical error, and the awareness is really very high in the polls. If something unexpected happens, people are likely to suspect error. It’s not going to go by the wayside, like it necessarily did in years gone by, when people didn’t get as much medical treatment, so weren’t as savvy about the medical system. But I think it is really important that health care providers, and particularly the upcoming generation, step up to the plate and say: “This is not going to happen anymore, not on our watch,” because it soils the whole system. It makes it impossible to get better.