How Early Intervention Helped Shape a Physician’s Career

October 7, 2022

A physician was newly out of residency the day he cared for a 52-year-old man in the emergency department (ED). It was a busy day in the ED, and the man, the healthiest patient the ED physician had seen that shift, was complaining of knee pain. Though some of the man’s labs came back slightly abnormal, the physician and the consulting hematologist agreed to discharge him after a reassuring exam.

Five days later, the physician was shocked to learn the man had died. During his routine post-care chart review, the physician discovered that the man had returned to the ED several days later with a fatal infection.

The physician recounted the impact of this discovery: “I felt like I had missed his diagnosis and done him a disservice. I was distraught. I didn’t know where to turn or how to feel about it.”

The physician consulted one of his colleagues, who told him about a resource available through Constellation, the ED group’s medical professional liability insurance company. By reporting the adverse outcome to Constellation, the physician was able to benefit from Constellation’s early intervention program, HEAL—an experience that ultimately influenced the trajectory of his career.

Early intervention in action

After receiving notice of the event, Constellation’s early intervention team, comprised of medical-legal experts, walked the physician through the harm event process and what to expect. Knowing that Constellation would support him in whatever direction the case took allowed the physician to begin processing the emotional aftermath of the event.

“Feeling like you played a hand in someone’s death is emotionally devastating. And when you add on top of that the worry about your career and your livelihood, it adds a second layer of stress,” said the physician.

The physician received peer support from an experienced clinician as part of Constellation’s Clinician Peer Support Program. This element of our early intervention program, offered as part of HEAL, is often the first step for clinicians and care teams to begin their healing journey. The emotional distress of an unanticipated outcome can linger for months, or even years, if left untreated. Our Clinician Peer Support Program offers physicians the opportunity to discuss the emotional impacts of a case file with an unbiased peer who has also experienced a claim or lawsuit.

“The peer support I received was incredibly beneficial,” said the physician. “The clinician I was matched with humanized the harm event and was able to remind me that none of us are perfect. Medicine is a very challenging job, and despite our best efforts, bad things will happen, and that doesn’t make me a bad person.”

Expert case review fosters early resolution

Finally, Constellation’s thorough case review determined that there were no issues with the physician’s care. Less than six weeks from the harm event, the case was resolved with no legal action. The physician was able to close this chapter of his career and continue to grow in his practice.

“If I hadn’t reached out to Constellation and reported the event immediately, I would still be checking my mail every day expecting a letter from a lawyer. Every time I got a call from an unknown number, I’d think it was a lawyer,” said the physician. “The ability to put the fear of the unknown in the rearview mirror was extremely helpful.”

A career forever changed

With the support of Constellation’s early intervention team and his ED colleagues, the physician used this experience to improve the care he provides to his patients.

“The trajectory of my career was forever changed by this case,” he said. He offered that he has learned to balance extreme caution with efficiency—implementing a personal “triple check” approach to his work, while leaning into the unfamiliar. Recalling his discomfort reviewing the man’s labs, he now uses each uncomfortable care scenario to expand his expertise. “When I’m unfamiliar with something, I lean into it. So, if I’m uncomfortable with how I interpreted an EKG, that will be my topic to dive into until I feel like I’ve mastered it,” said the physician.

It has been three years since this adverse outcome forever changed the physician’s career. He reports that he continues to grow as a physician and strives to provide excellent care. A tragic outcome that could have derailed his career was instead turned into a stepping stone for growth with early intervention.

The benefits of early reporting

We encourage all clinicians and care teams to report unanticipated outcomes early, so our team can offer our early intervention program, HEAL. At Constellation, we’re creating a better way forward after harm events—a way that can preserve relationships, promote communication and improve everyone’s experience. Our early intervention program, HEAL, champions this better way forward.

We’re prepared and ready to support our customer care teams, clinicians and health care organizations immediately following a harm event. We encourage customers to contact us as soon as possible when things don’t go as planned, so we know to offer our HEAL services.

Constellation’s HEAL program provides healing benefits for care teams and organizations because we truly believe that what’s good for care teams is good for business. To learn more about Constellation’s early intervention program, HEAL, and to assess your ability to respond effectively to a harm event like this one, sign in to ConstellationMutual.com to access the HEAL Prepare Toolkit and take the HEAL assessment.


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