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GA Bill Seeks Better Patient-Provider Communication About Medical Errors

A CANDOR law would protect transparent patient-provider communication about medical errors during legal and administrative proceedings.

A new bill in Georgia aims to improve patient-provider communication about medical errors and patient safety.

The CANDOR (Communication and Optimal Resolution) Act, based on the CANDOR program of the same name, acknowledges that, despite best efforts, medical errors can happen. But when those errors do happen, it is incumbent upon healthcare providers to clearly communicate those errors—and their implications—to the patient.

“Historically, whenever a patient suffers an adverse outcome, healthcare professionals have tended to assume a defensive stance on the matter and have been told to avoid telling the patient what happened,” the CANDOR Coalition said in a press release discussing the bill. “This is referred to as ‘deny, delay, and defend.’ For many years it had been a barrier to frank and truthful communication between healthcare professionals and patients.”

The CANDOR program turns that paradigm on its head by creating a model by which patients and providers communicate about a medical error. First, the healthcare provider explains the medical error to the patient and their family or caregivers as soon as possible. The provider should outline how the error will impact patient care. The healthcare provider also offers counseling and support to the family and caregivers, and they may also discuss compensation for the error and any harm caused.

The CANDOR Coalition said it is permissible and even encouraged for patients to have legal counsel present during CANDOR conversations.

The healthcare organization also has a key role to play, foremost by identifying and addressing the root causes of patient safety incidents and assessing the steps leading up to the issue. The healthcare organization keeps patients and families apprised of updates and offers counseling to providers whose patients have experienced a medical error.

This process is important to creating a better patient experience, according to the CANDOR Coalition. It can also help prevent medical malpractice lawsuits because it instills a culture of transparency and helps build patient trust.

The CANDOR law proposed in Georgia would protect CANDOR conversations from being used in related legal or administrative proceedings, the organization says on its website. When providers know that patient-provider communication about medical errors can be used in legal proceedings, it may discourage them from having those conversations and perpetuate that “deny, delay, and defend” culture the CANDOR Coalition stands against.

The CANDOR Coalition did emphasize that a CANDOR law would still allow for physician oversight.

“A CANDOR law would not remove oversight of physicians,” the organization says on its website. “A hospital would still be reviewing incidents through the standard peer review process. Additionally, patients always have the right to file a complaint with the Medical Board. Certain actions by a hospital against a physician’s privileges, and certain actions by the Medical Board against a physician’s license, would still get reported to the NPDB.”

Currently, three other states (Utah, Colorado, and Iowa) also have CANDOR laws.

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