The society and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center received a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to undertake a three-year pilot of this initiative.
The seven hospitals participating in the program include three from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center system, based in Boston, three from the Baystate Health System in Springfield, MA; and Massachusetts General Hospital.
"We're proposing a fundamental transformation of the medical liability system to use the courts as a last resort," says Alan Woodward, MD, past president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, who is involved in the project. "We know the current liability system is driving unnecessary costs in the form of defensive medicine. If you are going to get serious about healthcare costs, you are going to have to deal with defensive medicine." Eventually, Woodward says, the group may seek legislation to overhaul state as well as national policies.
The aura of litigation "intimidates people so they aren't open to discussions," Woodward adds. "Lawyers have told physicians for decades, ‘If something goes wrong, don't talk to anybody but me.'"
The Massachusetts Medical Society's DA&O plan says it offers patients "a full disclosure of what happened and why (and what will be done to prevent a recurrence of the event), and for events deemed avoidable, a sincere apology and appropriate and timely offer of compensation. It won't deny patients the right to bring legal action, but would make tort claims a last resort."