HealthDay News — A communication-and-resolution program, in which hospitals and liability insurers communicate with patients when adverse events occur, does not lead to higher liability costs, according to a study published online in Health Affairs.

Michelle M. Mello, PhD, from Stanford University in California, and colleagues used data recorded by program staff members and from surveys of involved clinicians to examine case outcomes of a program used by 2 academic medical centers and their community hospitals in Massachusetts in 2013-2015.

The program included communication by hospitals and liability insurers with patients when adverse events occurred; an investigation and explanation of what happened; and an apology and proactive offer of compensation when appropriate.

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The researchers found that the hospitals demonstrated good adherence to the communication-and-resolution program protocol. Ninety-one percent of the program events did not meet the eligibility criteria for compensation; resolution was not costly in those events that did meet the criteria (median payment, $75,000).

Malpractice claims or lawsuits occurred in 5% of events.Clinicians were supportive of the program but wanted better communication relating to the program from staff members.

“Our findings suggest that communication-and-resolution programs will not lead to higher liability costs when hospitals adhere to their commitment to offer compensation proactively,” the authors write.

The program was sponsored by Baystate Health Insurance Co., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, CRICO RMF, Coverys, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Massachusetts Medical Society, and Tufts Health Plan.

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Mello MM, Kachalia A, Roche S, et al. Outcomes in two Massachusetts hospital systems give reason for optimism about communication-and-resolution programs. Health Aff. 2017; 36(10): 1795-1803.