Disclosure-And-Resolution Programs that Include Generous Compensation Offers May Prompt a Complex Patient Response

Under “disclosure-and-resolution” programs, health systems disclose adverse events to affected patients and their families; apologize; and, where appropriate, offer compensation. Early adopters of this approach have reported reduced liability costs, but the extent to which these results stem from effective disclosure and apology practices, versus compensation offers, is unknown.

Using survey vignettes, the researchers examined the effects of different compensation offers on individuals’ responses to disclosures of medical errors compared to explanation and apology alone. The results show that although two-thirds of these individuals desired compensation offers, increasing the offer amount did not improve key outcomes. Full-compensation offers did not decrease the likelihood of seeking legal advice and increased the likelihood that people perceived the disclosure and apology as motivated by providers’ desire to avoid litigation.

Hospitals, physicians, and malpractice insurers should consider this complex interplay as they implement similar initiatives. They may benefit from separating disclosure conversations and compensation offers and from excluding physicians from compensation discussions.