Magazine article Drug Topics

Can I Say "I'm Sorry"?

Magazine article Drug Topics

Can I Say "I'm Sorry"?

Article excerpt

RISK MANAGEMENT & CQI

Later investigation showed the pharmacy had made a mistake. Instead of her high blood pressure medication, "Joann" [names and some facts have been changed to protect identities] had been given a 90 -day supply of testosterone tablets. After almost a month's adherence and 2 hospitalizations, Joann was back in the pharmacy. When she found out about the mistake from a nurse during her second hospitalization, her first thought was to hire a lawyer and sue. Her doctor talked her out of it. "Just go talk to the pharmacist; I am sure they will make it right,"

The pharmacist's first reaction was "We didn't do that," After a short, heated conversation, he reportedly accused Joann of replacing the drugs for high blood pressure with the testosterone tablets. The claim was eventually resolved, much later and at considerable expense.

What if the pharmacist had admitted his mistake and apologized? There are advantages to saying, "I made a mistake; I am sorry." A patient may be saved and a possibly explosive situation maybe cooled. For most of us, it is the natural thing to do.

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians tend to be empathetic people. Even if it is not obvious that the pharmacy made the error, one can still express empathy for what a person experienced. Sometimes the pharmacist's response might be Tm sorry you had to go through that. I don't know if it was our mistake, but we're going to find out, I'll let you know what we find."

Afraid to apologize

Pharmacists are often reluctant to apologize. One fear is that lawyers may use their statements against them. Another fear is that they may be violating their own malpractice insurance policies. Most policies have a clause dictating that the policyholder may not "admit liability."

Today, most medical and pharmacy insurance policies will advise apology when an error is obvious, In the case of a clear error, this may include admission that a mistake was made. Some have said the "not admit liability" clause refers to an admission of the results of a mistake, such as "This caused the injury."

Insurance companies know that most claims regarding obvious mistakes made by the pharmacy, such as dispensing the wrong drug, will usually be admitted before trial anyway. Pharmacies, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians should ask for a written explanation from their insurance company

Apology law

The rules of evidence provide generally that any admission by a party (such as the pharmacy) or its employee or agent (such as the pharmacist or pharmacy technician) may be admitted into evidence against them. …

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