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Fighting back against online attacks

MPS Medical Director Dr Priya Singh calls for global action against internet defamation

Members are increasingly facing the very distressing situation of material having been posted about them on the internet. This can take a number of forms, such as discussion forums, other websites containing a feedback element, or as a result of individual campaigns by patients dissatisfied with care received.

Whether the content is written by members of the public posting anonymously or by identifiable individuals, it is rare that the circumstances offer the subject of the material a right of reply.

It is rare that the circumstances offer the subject of the material a right of reply

Whilst MPS would not wish to restrict freedom of expression and fair comment, we do feel that members in these circumstances deserve a right of reply and/or redress, and it is therefore important that new legal frameworks around the world are created to reflect this.

This is less problematic in instances where the website host properly moderates the content available on their website or is able to offer a right of reply. Increasingly the process is more difficult and may even lead to a situation where there is no mechanism for challenging false or defamatory material. It is therefore of importance that website hosts continue to have liability for the content they publish.

We are seeing the courts beginning to recognise the impact and importance of these issues. As an example, where an internet campaign was a part of a wide range of harassment suffered by a member, we have been successful in obtaining an order prohibiting such internet attacks. These successes help us to continue to make strong representations on behalf of members, to ensure that legislators understand the devastation that such campaigns can cause.

Education update: What to do when something goes wrong

Despite our best intentions and efforts, healthcare will always have adverse outcomes. Most clinicians will have experienced a patient coming to them to express disappointment with the outcome of their treatment. Responding to patients in this scenario can be very challenging and our natural instinct can often be to say nothing and hope it will go away.

Unfortunately this is exactly the wrong thing to do. Evidence suggests that non-disclosure of error increases the likelihood of patients seeking legal advice/initiating action (Mazor et al 2006, Witman et al 1996). Effective and open communication after an adverse outcome may reduce the risk of patient action against a doctor.

Evidence suggests that non-disclosure of error increases the likelihood of patients seeking legal advice

To assist you in handling adverse outcomes MPS has developed Mastering Adverse Outcomes, one of the workshops available in MPS’s “Mastering” series of communication skills workshops. Mastering Adverse Outcomes covers the effective and ethical management of patient care following an adverse outcome, and provides you with the knowledge and techniques required to enhance your skills in communicating with patients when something has gone wrong.

For further information on Mastering Adverse Outcomes, including forthcoming dates and online booking, please click here.

Event focus – Ireland

Unravelling the myths of the consultant post

Fifty delegates attended the second Making the Most of Your Consultant Post conference for members in Ireland in November.

Held at Croke Park Stadium, Dublin, the event armed specialist registrars and newly-qualified consultants with the information they need to succeed in their current or future roles.

The day started with the presentation: “What to expect when you’re a consultant – everything you wanted to know, but were too afraid to ask” and included topics on the importance of open communication, human factors and system errors, and protecting your reputation – the MPS approach.

Professor James Lucey, Medical Director at St Patricks University Hospital and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin, spoke on mental health and burn out in medical professionals.

Case studies and ethical dilemmas from the MPS caseload were studied as part of a round-table discussion, with feedback from an expert panel.

The event armed specialist registrars and newly-qualified consultants with the information they need to succeed in their current or future roles

The day had some excellent feedback and we look forward to organising similar events for members in Ireland in 2012.

Country focus – Hong Kong

HKAM – MPS Award for Patient Safety

Dr Alexander Chiu has been named as the winner of the 2011 MPS – Hong Kong Academy of Medicine (HKAM) Award for Patient Safety.

The award aims to encourage medical professionals to promote patient safety and risk reduction

His paper, “Root Cause Analysis Improves Patient Safety: A descriptive study of Root Cause Analysis Framework applied to clinical incident investigation in a University Affiliated Hospital”, was awarded the highest total score by the judges. Dr Chiu was presented with a plaque and a cheque for HK$20,000.

The award aims to encourage medical professionals to promote patient safety and risk reduction.

Dr Chiu presented his winning paper at the HKAM – MPS Seminar on Patient Safety on Friday 2 December.

News near you...

Caribbean and Bermuda

MPS’s Dr Nancy Boodhoo and Al Neaber visited five countries in the region in October to meet with representatives of medical and dental associations, hospital boards and health services authorities.

In November, MPS Senior Consultant Dr Paul Nisselle presented risk management workshops focused on effective communication in conjunction with Cayman Islands Health Services Authority and the South Eastern and Western Regional Health Authorities in Jamaica.

UK

In September, MPS held the Making it Safer: Out of Hours and Unscheduled Primary Care conference, in Westminster, London. The conference attracted nearly 200 medical and clinical directors, chief executive officers, general practitioners, commissioners of out-of-hours (OOH) services and nurses. The packed programme included talks on: the role of the nurse practitioner; top tips on registering with the CQC; telephone triage; vicarious liability; and learning from adverse events.

Hong Kong

The second Hong Kong Expert Witness Training Programme, co-organised by MPS and HKMA, and supported by the HK Academy of Medicine, was held in September. The event was heavily oversubscribed, with more than 200 applications for 75 places. Topics included: the litigation process, clinical negligence, how to write a report, MPS claims handling ethos and what the courts wants from experts.

Malaysia

In November, Dr Ming-Keng Teoh delivered a lecture on medical protection and litigation in Penang. Dr Teoh spoke at the King Edward VII College of Medicine, University of Malaya’s annual alumni reunion.

Singapore

More than 150 doctors attended a lunchtime seminar on consent at Gleneagles Hospital in September. MPS Head of Medical Services (Asia) Dr Ming-Keng Teoh spoke on “Ethical and legal principles”, Edwin Tong from Allen & Gledhill spoke on “Recent SMC and High Court decisions” and MPS Medicolegal Adviser Dr Janet Page spoke on “Where to from here?”

Dr Teoh and Dr Page met with the new SMC President, Prof Tan Ser Kiat, to discuss recent SMC decisions on consent and better ways of working together.

South Africa

Chaired by MPS medicolegal consultants Dr Tony Behrman and Dr Liz Meyer, “Ethics for All”, the annual MPS ethics evening, was held in Pretoria (400 attendees) on Monday 21 November and in Cape Town (1,500 attendees) on Wednesday 30 November 2011.

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