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Care and accountability

Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | March 24, 2020
From the January/February issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

While she didn’t undergo formal training and her background as a graphic designer didn’t align with her new role, the experience she went through and the understanding of what people really require after a medical error has served her well.

“Most people want three things,” she says. “They want an honest, transparent explanation of what happened. They want an apology. They want to see that changes have been made to make sure what happened never happens to someone else.”

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Schweitzer works within Stanford Risk Management, between attorneys, patients and patient families. Ideally she’s involved as soon as an event happens, but that’s not always the case. “Sometimes, there are elements we don’t understand, or we don’t find out that there has been an event until significant time has passed,” she says. “Sometimes it takes time for a patient or family to talk to us.”

Leilani Schweitzer
If the results of the review determine something was not preventable, Schweitzer will meet with the family to find out what questions they have, what they experienced, and to explain next steps and set expectations. If the results of the review determine the outcome was preventable, she and a team meet with the family, explain what was learned, what’s being done to ensure it doesn’t happen to anyone again, apologizes and offers compensation.

Schweitzer meets with patients and families along with the healthcare professionals involved. She says she’s never had an experience where a doctor tells her afterward that he or she wishes she didn’t have the meeting. Quite the contrary, she says, there were medical professionals so distraught over an incident that they were considering getting out of medicine, but the chance to meet with patients and families helped renew their commitment to continue providing the best care possible.

For Schweitzer’s own experience, the investigation into the incident revealed that the monitor manufacturer didn’t put in a fail-safe to prevent all the alarms from being turned off. The information was shared with all hospitals using that system. “I will never know if it helped someone else, but it comforts me to know it might have,” she says.

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