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Health Care Mediation Lacks Physician Participation

From the Disputing Blog of Karl Bayer, Victoria VanBuren, and Holly Hayes.

This week, a Wall Street Journal Health Blog headline stated, “Big Challenge for Mediation in Medical Malpractice: Doctor Participation.” The post discussed a study published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law which reviewed 31 cases from New York City non-profit hospitals. The study found that although mediation in a medical malpractice context has potential benefits, no physicians participated in the cases. The authors of the study said the lack of physician participation,

misses some opportunities — first, to ‘repair the relationship between human beings,’ that is, the physician and the patient (or family of the patient), Carol Liebman, co-author of the study, a professor of law at Columbia Law School and director of the school’s mediation clinic, tells the Health Blog. It also misses the chance to collect information from patients, families and physicians to fill in the blanks of what actually happened, and if there was an error, to figure out how to prevent it from happening again, she says. The mediation approach used in the study holds that any information important to someone at the table, not just what is legally relevant, can be discussed. (Information disclosed during mediation is confidential.)

When you don’t have the involvement of “the person who is involved in these decisions, day in and day out, you don’t get valuable information,” Liebman says. “A lawyer’s job is to defend the case, not to reshape policy.” Mediation, she says, offers the opportunity to improve patient safety in a way litigation cannot.

Of the 31 cases reviewed, 16 settled at mediation, five settled after mediation and 10 were not settled. The lawyers involved stated a busy schedule prevented physicians from participating in the mediations. Liebman, however, wonders if physicians were discouraged from attending by lawyers and administrators who might be looking ahead to the possibility of a trial.

What do you think?


Holly Hayes

Holly Hayes Bovio received a Masters in Health Administration (MHA) from Duke University and her undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University. She holds a certificate in mediation from Texas State.  Holly brings a strong hospital operations background to healthcare mediations including a focus on clinical quality.  Holly managed her own consulting… MORE >

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