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Introducing the Health Care Section

by Debra Gerardi
May 2002 Debra Gerardi

Health Care Mediation Section

Thank you for visiting the newest section of! The Health Care Section is designed to present issues, innovative projects, educational opportunities, controversial topics, and informative articles addressing conflict management, communication, and dispute resolution in the health care setting.

All health care delivery environments are filled with multiple sources of conflict. Disputes over finite resources, treatment decisions, visiting hours, staffing, and reimbursement for services are just a few of the situations that can create difficulties between medical staff and patients or their families.

Improving communication and cooperation among health care providers and patients can enhance patient outcomes, decrease costs of care and build healthy relationships to promote healing and decrease costs of care.

In general, processes for resolving conflict in the clinical setting are adversarial pitting consumers against providers and creating a competitive environment that discourages cooperative problem solving. The media focus on medical error, fear of litigation among providers, cost cutting, intra-familial conflicts and emotional responses to illness can drive an adversarial system and lead to a decrease in communication.

Often there is little focus on prevention of conflict and little or no training of health care providers and staff in areas of conflict management and communication. In addition, internal processes for resolving conflicts are fragmented according to the type of conflict with various processes and venues for managing medical errors, denial of care appeals, employment and labor disputes, bio-ethical disputes, and other clinical conflicts. Integration of conflict management processes is rare and early and direct management of conflicts at the bedside too infrequent.

As the health care industry struggles to provide high quality patient care in a cost containment atmosphere, more and more organizations are looking for innovative ways to manage conflict related to patient safety, workforce shortages, mergers/acquisitions, denial of care, end-of-life disputes, diverse cultural needs, and many other challenges.

This section is devoted to the sharing of ideas and information to assist dispute resolution practitioners, health care providers and adminstrators, regulatory agencies and consumers in addressing these concerns.

We welcome all articles, announcements, model programs, research, and other information related to health care dispute resolution and conflict management. Please take the time to look at our initial offerings and send us your info and articles!


Ms. Gerardi is a mediator and health care dispute resolution consultant and Chair of the Program on Healthcare Collaboration and Conflict Resolution at the Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at Creighton University.

Ms. Gerardi is a licensed critical care nurse with more than 15 years of clinical and administrative experience in academic health care organizations. Her healthcare background includes patient safety program design, management of surgical and medical intensive care units, administration of VIP medical/surgical services and of ambulatory health services. Her mediation experience includes complex multi-party disputes, organizational mediation, civic dialogue facilitation and community mediation. She has trained more than 5,000 professionals in conflict management, creativity, negotiation and communication skills.

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