Hospital treatment is not always straight forward and sometimes people suffer from poor experiences or outcomes. Patients may want to discuss their treatment with the providers and ask questions and obtain answers about their treatment and what went wrong.
If this has happened to you, there are several ways in which a meeting between a patient and the hospital can be arranged, including:
- Following a request by a patient or their family;
- Following a discussion with the Hospital’s Liaison Officer;
- Following a complaint to the Hospital;
- As part of a conciliation meeting with your state’s Health Complaint’s Body; or
- Following an external or internal clinical review of the treatment (sometimes referred to as a root cause analysis).
If you have been offered a meeting with the hospital, here are some tips to make the meeting as informative and beneficial as possible. While most hospitals will be willing to have follow up discussions and answer any additional questions you may have, this may be the only opportunity you have to speak to the various treating doctors so it is important that you are prepared.
The meetings are generally held as open discussions where questions can be asked. These meetings are often very emotional which can make it difficult to direct the conversation. We therefore recommend you take the following steps:
Do your research
Prior to the meeting you should obtain a copy of the relevant medical records so that you know what treatment was provided. In most states, a copy of your medical records can be provided to you on a CD disc.
Bring your spouse or family member
Request that a support person be present during the meeting. These meetings are very emotional and knowing you have someone’s support is crucial. They may also be able to ask questions on your behalf (if you are unable to do so yourself).
Write a list of questions
Write out any questions that you have following your treatment or experience. These questions should be asked to help you better understand your treatment and understand any additional treatment or services that you may now require.
Have your family member write a list of questions
Request that your spouse and or family members (who were present during your treatment) also consider any questions that they may have regarding the treatment as everyone makes different observations and it can be difficult to recall all aspects of the treatment process.
During the meeting you should request that your support person take notes of the meeting so that you can remind yourself of the discussion and recommendations provided. The hospital will generally take minutes of the meetings as well, so you should request a copy of those.
Record the meeting
You may also seek the hospital’s permission to make an audio recording of the conversation. This should be made for your benefit only and it is important that you do not share this recording with third parties as you may be breaching privacy laws in your state.
Understand the plan moving forward
In the circumstances where you have been offered a meeting following a formal clinical review of the hospital’s treatment, the hospital will advise you of the outcome of the review and any recommendations. You may also want to ask how the recommendations will be implemented and monitored.
It is important to note that external or internal reviews are not always required. Instead, they occur where there has been systemic or administrative failures or in circumstances involving very poor outcomes. The reviews are initiated to identify any failings and areas for improvement. This process may assist the hospital to implement improvements around common themes identified by the reviewers for the benefit of the patients, families and the community.
If you find yourself being offered a meeting at a hospital, it will usually be at a very difficult time in your/your family’s lives and the prospect of meeting with the treatment providers can be stressful and confronting. While this meeting will not change the outcome that you have experienced, it does allow you the opportunity to tell your side of the story and how you are feeling. It also allows you to better understand the treatment decisions and it may provide you with the opportunity to make changes so that the same treatment is not provided to someone else. In some circumstances, it may allow the hospital to provide you with an apology. While you do not need a lawyer to attend the meeting with you, it can be very helpful to obtain legal advice to ensure you are across all of the relevant issues. Following the meeting you may also want further advice regarding the treatment that has been provided.