I’m Kate Dewhirst.

I’m a lawyer who writes about legal issues affecting healthcare in Canada

Kate Dewhirst Health Law - bringing the law to life. Meet Kate (in 13 seconds)

Do you know how to apologize?

Posted by

A note popped into my inbox this morning from Michael Hyatt, who is an extraordinary business coach.  The topic is “The anatomy of a true apology”.

I am working right now with a medical office on a privacy breach and notifying patients.  And we have had some heartfelt discussions about how to convey sincerity in the notification letters about the team’s apology.

As Privacy Officers, Risk Managers and Patient Relations Officers, you have the meetings and write the letters to patients to say sorry for the poor behaviour of others. It’s not quite the same as apologizing for your own mistakes – but there are take away messages to remember about how others receive bad news and what your patients want to hear when your organization has failed them.

I thought Michael’s tips on how to issue an apology were really helpful.  He has two blog posts on the subject:

Ten Difficult, But Really Important Words

How to Botch an Apology

To add a few of my own observations:

  1. Use your own words.  Lawyers can help you with an outline of a letter or a script for an apology meeting, but the best apologies are conveyed using your own words.
  2. Offer time and space. Once you have told a patient what happened, give them some time and space to absorb the information.  Offer to speak with them at a later date at their convenience to answer any questions.
  3. Keep it simple.  If you feel the need to provide the whole backstory, write it out and then edit the apology notes back to the basics. It can look like you are trying to confuse people if you provide too much information.

Issuing an apology is never easy.  But health care organizations that can provide a sincere apology often avoid escalation to third party complaints and litigation.


If you enjoyed this article please share it:


Previous and next posts from Kate:

Some of Kate’s recent and upcoming events

Free healthcare privacy webinar - ask me anything!
the first Wednesday of every month

Free webinars - advance registration needed

Whether you're an experienced privacy officer or new in the field, pick Kate’s brain for free for an hour, in this live webinar. No charge, but you’ll need to register in advance.

Health Privacy Officer Foundations training
September 14, 21, 28, October 5, 12, 19, 26 2021

For Privacy Officers within healthcare organizations.

This course focuses on how to become a more confident privacy officer and gives you the tools to document your privacy program. Full details and registration here...

Join the Shush: a collective of health privacy officers
Annual membership 2021

For Privacy Officers within healthcare organizations

This is an annual membership program that takes theory into practice and tackles real life scenarios to build Privacy Officer skills.
Full details and registration here.

Primary care webinars: Employment Law Update & Legal Issues for EDs and Board members

Part of Kate’s monthly webinar series.

Our September program will address toxic employees and in October we discuss collaboration agreements.
Full details of the 2021 webinar series and registration here.

Team Privacy Training Events
September 22, 23, 24, 27, 30 October 13, 14, 20, 21

For Primary Care clinics, Hospitals, Community Agencies, Mental Health Teams, Public Health Units, School Boards, Police departments

Kate trains health professionals from many more health care organizations how being privacy-respectful can improve therapeutic relationships. More details...

Part X CYFSA Privacy Designate Course - video course online

For Privacy Designates in the child welfare sector including children's aid societies and indigenous children's well-being centres

We focus on how to implement Part X of the Child Youth and Family Services Act in your organization.
Full details and registration here.

Free summary of all PHIPA IPC decisions

Want to read privacy breach stories to learn how to improve your work? We have summarized all the Information and Privacy Commissioner's health privacy decisions for you Download here...

NEW! Ontario Hospital Association Professional Staff Credentialing Toolkit

2nd Edition is now available for managing physicians, dentists, midwives and nurse practitioners in hospitals Read here...

Kate Dewhirst Health Law

Kate says:

My mission is bringing the law to life. I make legal theory understandable, accessible and fun! I’m available and love to work for all organizations in the healthcare sector across Ontario and beyond.

Subscribe to my mailing list and keep up to date with news:

Latest Tweets

Join The Shush, my community for Privacy Officers in the healthcare sector. Develop knowledge, skills and judgment,… https://t.co/xGIfjnRDiI

about 21 hours ago

“Refresher Credentialing Training” for hospital Credentials Committees, MACs and Boards --- Based on the new Prof… https://t.co/d9RdfwdxJn

08:00 AM Oct 18th


contact details

P.O. Box 97010 Roncesvalles
Toronto Ontario M6R 3B3

(416) 855 9557

.