Thursday, October 1, 2009

For Crying Out Loud

When it comes to errors, goofiness, and the insensitivity of top managers, there must be a part of the business school campus that is intentionally avoided—the school of sensible answers and actions.

Case and point: A health care client recently discovered the presence of a mold in one of its buildings, a species that commonly occurs during construction. In another part of the same building, there have been suspicious deaths, although all of the patients involved were already extremely ill. The patients that expired were cared for by two different physicians, both of whom have indicated that the mold may be to blame.

The crucial issue for management seemed to be, rather than dealing with the mold issue directly, was to spend some time (several hours) discussing and debating what their disclosure obligations were. Here are the questions under discussion:

  1. How much of this do we have to disclose and to whom?
  2. When do we have to disclose it?
  3. What should be disclosed first and what can wait?
  4. If new facts arise, when do we disclose this newly found information?
  5. Are we responsible for balanced disclosure?
  6. What are the limits of disclosure we will tolerate before we close this door?
  7. Once we start this process, how long do we have to talk about it and keep providing additional information?
  8. Won’t too much disclosure discourage and frighten patients and their relatives unnecessarily?
  9. Who should make the disclosures? Should this individual be an attorney?
  10. What do we not have to tell anyone?
  11. Is it possible that some of the information comes under HIPAA regulations and therefore must be kept confidential?
  12. How much of this disclosure is a business decision and how much is a moral decision?
  13. Should businesses, even health care organizations, be making moral decisions?

The disclosure dilemma occurs frequently in business life. And the habit of over analyzing seemingly simple situations by management is also too common.

What’s your opinion? What should the rules of disclosure be and under what circumstances?

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Blogger Tricia said...

Your client might be able to learn something from St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, CA. An entire wing of that hospital had been contaminated with mold following a construction error. Though in this case the mold was discovered before the wing opened to patients and then never did open while the mold was still present, it still may be a good case study.

The hospital embarked on a robust community campaign to let people know about the mold and what they were doing about it - which involved closing the hospital for a period of almost two weeks, tenting the facility, and treating it with a kind of gas that killed the mold. The hospital won a silver anvil for community relations. There were a few naysayers given the extremes the hospital wanted to go to, but everytime the naysayers got on their bully pulpit it was just another opportunity for the hospital to reiterate its message about care for the community and how safety was their number one priority.

October 7, 2009 at 3:50 PM  

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