George Breen and Mollie O’Brien Quoted in “Attorneys See Risk Managers Gaining Prominence”

Health Risk Management

George Breen, Chair of the firm's National Health Care and Life Sciences Practice Steering Committee, in the Washington, DC, office and Mollie O'Brien, a Member of the Firm in the Health Care and Life Sciences practice, in the Newark office, were quoted in an article titled "Attorneys See Risk Managers Gaining Prominence."

Following is an excerpt:

For years, the department of risk management was looked upon with disfavor by physicians and given little thought by hospital administration or others, notes George B. Breen. ?...

Frequently located in basement offices, risk managers were regarded by physicians as adversaries looking to attack when errors were found, he says. Administrators often used risk management as a place to send disgruntled patients or family members for service recovery and damage control. Reactionary risk assessment by a non-physician to an unanticipated clinical outcome drew the ire and distrust of the medical staff, he says.

As medical malpractice filings increased, physicians feared discipline and backlash and rebuffed interaction with a risk manager, adds Mollie K. O'Brien. ?...

"Where physicians may have been willing, and programmed, to participate in a protected peer-to-peer discussion about outcomes and potential for improvement, cynicism abounded regarding the risk manager's willingness, or ability, to provide meaningful guidance or protection from reprimand or disclosure," Breen says. "As a result, data collection for medical misadventures was spotty, self-reporting of errors or near misses was nearly nil, and risk managers were at odds with their own medical community. A proactive risk approach was practically impossible." ?...

"News headlines proclaimed any number of preventable medical errors. Public outcry demanded transparency from clinicians. A necessary colloquy on proactive risk assessment came next," O'Brien says. "State laws requiring disclosure of medical errors by physicians and hospitals followed immediately. Those laws promised to protect physicians from liability for disclosure in the name of a safer practice environment and better patient outcomes but physicians remained understandably cynical."