Effective Communication After an Unanticipated Outcome

Presented by Geri Amori, PhD, ARM, DFASHRM, CPHRM 

Shelburne, Vermont

Dr. Amori is experienced in Risk Management, the effect of communication on the outcome of claims and suits, as well as being experienced educator in the field of Risk Management.

No one questions that effective communication is an absolute imperative to an effective risk management program, especially after an unanticipated outcome.Despite this universal belief, historically, healthcare organizations have had few tools for (and little training in) increasing the efficacy of their communication with patients/families about unexpected events. Traditionally, Risk Managers have been encouraged to look only at the absolute numbers 

of suits or claims (i.e., the frequency of suits/claims) as a measure for successful management of post-injury events. In response, Risk Managers have, justifiably, been encouraged to think that factors influencing the decision (to file a claim or suit) are not affected by post-injury management and may not be reflective of an effective risk management processes. 


The JCAHO standards for disclosure add a significant new responsibility

on healthcare providers to disclose and discuss unanticipated outcomes. 

However, until now, almost no practical education has existed to assist the

risk manager or health care provider in effectively managing those mandated disclosures.  This one-day customizable seminar, Effective Communication

After an Unanticipated Outcome, was developed to meet this need.

This seminar has three goals: 


First, to improve effective provider and staff communication with patients/families when discussing unanticipated outcomes;


Second, to present practical methods for increasing effective communication within the healthcare organization, not only in the unanticipated outcome situation but also in any situation where communication with patients and their families; other members of the healthcare team, and even communication within normal processes of 

daily work is critical to successful outcomes; and 


Third, using role playing and actual demonstrations, to give the 

attendees practical experience to achieve immediate improvement 

when communicating in difficult situations. 



This seminar emphasizes that several factors are more appropriate to

assess the usefulness of post-injury effective communication and include:


  • The amount of monetary damages paid (i.e., the severity of suits/claims) long term where effective communication has been experienced versus where less than effective communication has been experienced both with patients/families and within the court system.


  • Lessening the emotional impact on the ability of medical staff to practice
            without undue fear of unanticipated outcomes.


  • Proactive and practical risk management techniques which give both Risk Managers and medical staff more influence over communications about unanticipated outcomes in both the pre-claim and pre-suit environment.


Early research is showing that although effective communication skills may

not decrease the frequency of claims, it has a direct influence on severity 

of claims, i.e., the financial outcome of legal interaction. The ability of an 

organization’s efforts to improve communication both with patients and in

the legal process creates an opportunity which will both reinforce

communication efforts and have a positive impact on the bottom line

costs for claims. Significant benefits also accrue for meetings of

committees and teams.

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