A Six Point Message

  • ·        Recognizing the need for and value of conflict management in healthcare continues to be an imperative. Health reform has not changed that fact. If anything, the need is greater. The American Bar Association Health Law Section's Conflict Task Force was an active presence at the March 2015 annual meeting called the EMI (Emerging Medical Issues). As part of that presence, I presented a program on ethics for lawyers, along with Jane Conard, on skills that lawyers need, maybe even a paradigm shift, to lead clients ethically and effectively toward awareness and use of resolution, problem-solving skills. The “I’d rather fight than switch” mantra won’t fly in healthcare. Much material from the Virginia legal community where there has been real leadership around the role of lawyers as counselors and problem-solvers was useful and well-received by the ABA health lawyers.
  • ·        The American Health Lawyers Association, which provides alternative dispute resolution, urges mediation and conflict resolution as effective, necessary early interventions to avert a host of legal battles that cost everyone and help few. AHLA offers healthcare facilities an onsite, immersive training designed by me and Jane Conard. Attention to facilitating the resolution of medical staff disputes including peer review matters has been the subject of several excellent programs that Michael Roth and Dr. Leonard Fromer have presented for AHLA and that Jane Conard, Jamie Baskerville-Martin and I presented for the ABA. Mediation or facilitation needs to be carefully set up and well executed to be productive; with that, the promise of satisfying results is great. “We” know that with the recent emphasis on Big Data and evidenced based practice in medicine, there is bound to be friction at times. Medicine is less the science that some would like to think it is. There is an element of art in diagnosis and treatment, the individuality of patients is a critical component in tailoring the treatment, and highly skilled operators, with the best interests of patients in mind, often do disagree on what to do when.
  • ·         Speaking of the last point, a great read is an old book titled, The Making of a Surgeon, by William Nolen. It’s a 45 year old book with a keenly observant perspective that remains relevant. It contains the fast-paced telling of one “unbelievable but true” story after another about how a physician learns to be one. It is common today to speak of the 10,000 hours needed to become proficient at something. That idea is not new.
  • ·        These notes focus on differences arising in healthcare – a world I know well. In fact, the needs for better communication and problem solving arise in many settings, especially in partnerships where people think they share goals and mission and yet begin to chafe working together in the traces of their organizational structure. There should be no shame or hesitation to face the symptoms promptly to figure out what isn’t working and what could be changed. It’s a good business practice.
  • ·        For example, the slew of cases arising in the employment law area make apparent that conflict and dissension in workplaces are common and sadly find their way into the court system. How does anyone get their work done? It seems so wasteful.
  • ·         This June, the Joint ADR Committee of the two Virginia statewide bar associations launched a blog – first ever for these associations - called “All Things ADR.” We are starting cautiously but intently to put quality materials out there to enrich Virginia lawyers’ problem solving-negotiation practices. The materials now posted are available to the public at www.vba.org/allthingsadr. Please check it out. We will add something about every 2 weeks.
  • ·        I shall have to stop apologizing for the posts here being so occasional.  I have been busy, enjoying it, and don’t anticipate that changing soon. Please get in touch with your problem-resolution needs.  I wish you an enjoyable summer.   
Jeanne Franklin