Mellman logo

Mediator or Arbitrator?

Ideally, healthcare conflicts should be effectively managed before they become confrontations. Often, these disputes become deep-seated conflicts, usually with many layers of history and emotion.

Because of the cost of time and resources, and the very real threats to patient safety and quality of care, the joint commission has mandated standards for conflict management.

Closely aligned with this mission is Mellman Solutions' concern with ethics regarding the business of healthcare and issues of social and economic justice.


If the conflicting parties (and there may be more than two) cannot negotiate a solution independently, there are five alternatives.

Do nothing and continue with “business as usual.” This leads to perverse behavior and creates a culture of we-versus-they.

File a lawsuit. This is always expensive with an outcome difficult to predict. The resolution is in the hands of a judge, and often a jury, which may or may not understand the issues.

Allow a higher organizational authority to decide. This gives the final say to one who may have a conflict of interest.

Arbitration, either binding or non-binding, in which the decision is determined by an independent decision-maker. The parties will make their cases, but have no control over the decision. At least one of all parties will be unhappy with the outcome. As a result, the organization will suffer.

Mediation is the use of a neutral to facilitate discussion between and among the parties, so that the interests of the various parties are understood to a significant degree. It gives the most opportunity for the parties to have control over the outcome.

Mediation is the most effective and efficient way to achieve settlement.

Among Mellman Solutions’ services:

Mediator Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process in which an objective neutral facilitates dialogue between and among the parties.

Facilitator A facilitator is an objective administrator “in charge” of the session, but he or she has no decision-making authority.

Arbitrator The parties to a dispute decide that a third party will settle. There is little chance for parties to control the outcome. Often, an arbitrator sits as one member on a panel. Arbitration is considered a more cost-effective route, because there are fewer costs, but that is not always the case.

Conflict coach Offers confidential executive and leadership training, with nine years’ experience. I teach leadership and coaching; leaders learned how to resolve issues and the steps involved in out of the box thinking. These are particularly helpful skills for hospital administrators and can be cost effective over the long term.