The Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) and MACRMI recently co-sponsored a seminar on the CARe program at the MBA. The audience consisted mostly of attorneys, including those who represent patients. The purpose of the seminar was to educate lawyers on the program so that they could understand and appreciate its mission. In that regard, the program was a resounding success. Dr. Alan Woodward and Dr. Ken Sands provided a history of the program and the current results of its implementation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Consistent with transparency of CARe, many facts and data were revealed during the program with regard to the impact of these programs on resolving cases early and the progress that has yet to be made.
We also had the benefit of a successful plaintiff's attorney from Michigan, George Googasian, who spoke of the benefits of a well-known disclosure and offer program in that state. He convincingly dispelled notions that such programs are a "wolf in sheep's clothing" or an attempt to short-change patients by offering them money at the early stages of their injury when they are most vulnerable. All panelists repeatedly emphasized that the participation of the attorney for the patient is highly encouraged in order to ensure that the process works fairly. In particular, the attorney's role is to make sure that the settlement is sufficient to take care of their past, present, and future needs of the patient. The attorney also is there to ensure that the terms of the settlement agreement are fair and to assist with exploring and negotiating any medical liens that may subtract from the settlement offer. Plaintiff's attorney Jeffrey Catalano also explained the necessity of such programs to improve patient safety efforts. In particular, this program encourages healthcare providers to disclose and learn from their medical mistakes.
Defense attorney Kevin Giordano also discussed the importance of having the defense bar buy in to this program. He expressed that it is the right thing to do and encouraged plaintiff's attorneys to also be open-minded to resolving these cases fairly. Finally, patient advocate Linda Kenney of MITSS spoke of the importance of appreciating both the healthcare provider's and patient's emotions when a medical error occurs and the need for early healing for both parties, which the CARe program facilitates.
The program was universally well received, as evidenced by written and verbal comments following the presentations. Importantly, there were many prominent plaintiffs' medical malpractice attorneys in the audience, including the current president of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys. Everyone was very interested in the program and invested in future efforts to make it work. As the first phase of an effort to solicit the collaboration of all attorneys, it was a tremendous success.
It is encouraging to learn that attorneys, healthcare providers, and insurers can find a common ground when it comes to trying to prevent avoidable medical errors and to providing assistance to those who are injured. Although the road ahead is still long, it promises to be well-paved.
If you missed the event but would like to view it via webcast, please click here. This webcast is available for anyone to view, so check it out!