What if you really are sorry …

There was an interesting article in the New York Times recently about doctor’s acknowledging and apologizing for their medical mistakes. It is interesting to note that at the University of Michigan Health System, one of the first to experiment with a full disclosure approach (which includes apologizing face-to-face to patients), lawsuits dropped from 262 in August 2001 to 83 in August 2007. 

As communicators, approaching an issue has always been about acknowledging the impact an action, situation, incident or tragedy has had on people – one person at a time. Sometimes what a communicator would like to do conflicts with what legal would like to have happen. That’s understandable, but now with immediate attention focused on what a company does or should have done in an issue or crisis, decisions have to be made quickly and they need to be authentic and transparent. It seems that in the medical field, the full disclosure approach is telling us that people want mistakes to be acknowledged and to be dealt with person to person. I know it’s what I would want.

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