March 24, 2011
ATLANTA -- Professor Charity Scott, Director of the Center for Law, Health & Society, spoke at the American Bar Association’s annual conference on Emerging Issues in Health Law, sponsored by the ABA Health Law Section in February in New Orleans. The topic was "Conflict Engagement: Dealing Constructively with Conflict Across the Organization."
"Dealing constructively with conflict in health care organizations is critical to improving patient safety and the quality of care," said Scott. "Studies have shown that poor communication among health care providers is frequently a root cause of adverse events that harm patients in hospitals. The tools of ADR [alternative dispute resolution] and conflict management can play a central role in improving the delivery of health care."
Scott was joined at the ABA half-day workshop by three other experts in conflict resolution in health care, all with backgrounds as lawyers and mediators. Debra Gerardi, RN, MPH, JD, is the President and Chief Creative Officer of EHCCO (Emerging Healthcare Communities), a community of practice that supports creating collaborative cultures in health care. William ("Bill") Eddy, LCSW, JD, is the President of the High Conflict Institute, specializing in dealing in disputes with high conflict personalities. Dale Hetzler, MSCM, JD, is Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Erlanger Health System, where he has introduced conflict resolution training to administrators and clinicians across the organization.
"The workshop gave attendees, who are practicing health law attorneys from around the country, a unique opportunity to hear from leaders at the cutting edge of ADR and conflict resolution in health care institutions," said Scott. "We offered strategies for designing conflict management systems, building conflict competency across hospital personnel, and adopting collaborative approaches for dealing constructively with conflict, as well tools for identifying particularly conflict-prone personalities and techniques for engaging them effectively."
The Joint Commission, which sets accreditation standards for hospitals across the country, has recognized the central role that good conflict management plays in improving health care quality and safety. In 2009, it adopted a new accreditation standard that requires hospitals to manage conflict between leadership groups - the governing board, top administrators, and leaders of the medical staff.
"Deb Gerardi and I teamed up to write a two-part set of articles to consider how, as a practical matter, hospitals could constructively implement this new accreditation standard," Scott said. "Our overall message in these essays is that hospitals should align their approach to conflict management with their patient safety and quality goals." The two articles, "A Strategic Approach from Managing Conflict in Hospitals: Responding to the Joint Commission Leadership Standard, Parts 1 and 2," were published in the February issue (vol. 37, no. 2) of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.
A nationally recognized expert in health law, policy and ethics, Scott earned a master’s degree in conflict management from Kennesaw State University in 2009. "Hospitals deal with life and death every day, and it’s no surprise that tensions, stress, and conflict can arise among the providers themselves, with patients and families, and with administrators," said Scott. "I saw the connection between early resolution of these conflicts and improvement in the delivery of care. The master’s degree offered me a great opportunity to study this field more formally."
A copy of the slides that accompanied Scott’s remarks is available at http://law.gsu.edu/clhs/files/ABA_EMI_2011_Scott.pdf
For more information about the other speakers at the ABA workshop, see
Debra Gerardi at http://www.ehcco.com/
Bill Eddy at http://www.highconflictinstitute.com/
Dale Hetzler (speaking in Scott’s negotiation class, video) at http://hollywood.gsu.edu/law/clhs/Dale_Hetzler.mov