How to Respond After a Harm Event

January 21, 2021

How your team and organization respond after a patient/resident harm event can either escalate an already bad situation or diminish the ripples of hurt that can follow.

Improper management of a surgical patient

In one of our cases, a 60-year-old man developed pain, swelling and weakness in his right lower leg following knee replacement surgery. His orthopedic surgeon did not diagnose a popliteal pseudoaneurysm until six weeks after surgery despite the man’s repeated complaints. The delay in treatment resulted in a permanent nerve injury and mobility problems. The man was totally disabled and unable to work. He was angry that no one listened to him and took his complaints seriously. He filed a malpractice claim against the orthopedist, the orthopedic clinic and the hospital. During the claim investigation, the involved providers started blaming each other for not responding sooner to the man’s symptoms. This made the defense of the claim difficult and resulted in hard feelings on all sides.

What to do after a harm event

Oftentimes, a harm event causes unintentional ripples of hurt—for patients/residents, care teams, and the organization. At Constellation®, we believe there’s a better way to navigate an unexpected outcome, a way that creates a path to healing for everyone involved. That’s why we created HEAL®, a program focused on acting promptly and effectively after a harm event occurs, to both shorten the life cycle of the event and to reduce the sequence of negative impacts it may cause.

When a harm event occurs, reporting it to Constellation immediately allows us to introduce HEAL’s core services sooner and get care teams the support they need. It’s our goal to achieve meaningful resolution long before any pressure builds. HEAL accelerates evaluation of the standard of care, helps with communication with the patient and family, ensures providers and care teams are supported, and then identifies strategies to avoid risk in the future. It’s a better path forward for all involved.

To access services:

  • Report an Incident/Claim online at as soon as possible
  • If needed, get coaching from Constellation’s risk and claim teams regarding best practices, but don’t delay initial event investigations
  • Discuss with Constellation whether the event is appropriate for the HEAL program and an early evaluation of standard of care
Doing better going forward: The HEAL Prepare Toolkit

HEAL also helps your organization prepare for harm events so you can respond quickly and effectively in the occurrence of future harm events. HEAL includes access to assessments, best practices, sample tools and coaching.

“The HEAL Prepare Toolkit is a comprehensive, multi-year, self-guided program that prepares health care providers and teams for patient harm events. Whether you’re just starting the journey to a communication and resolution program (CRP), or if you have some form of a CRP in place, the Toolkit is designed to meet you where you are, fill gaps, add value, and get you to best practices.”

Emily Clegg, Senior Director, Risk Mitigation & Response at Constellation

Learn more about the HEAL Prepare Toolkit, available to Constellation customers.

The hard feelings between the involved providers in this case could have been lessened with assistance and support from the HEAL program. HEAL provides healing benefits for care teams and their organizations because we truly believe that what’s good for care teams is good for business.

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