Study Shows Most General Practice Doctors Don't Discuss Medical Errors

A new University of Iowa study shows that most general practice doctors in teaching hospitals are willing to discuss their own patient care errors with colleagues, but about one in four do not. At the same time, nearly nine of 10 doctors said that if they wanted to talk about a mistake, they knew a colleague who would be a supportive listener. The findings are reported in the Oct. 1 issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics.

The results suggest that it is important to ensure that learning occurs not just in the person who made the mistake but also among their peers, said Lauris Kaldjian, M.D., Ph.D., the study's lead author and associate professor of internal medicine at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

"Discussing medical errors can be a form of professional learning for doctors. Mistakes should be considered shared commodities and used for all they're worth," said Kaldjian, who also is director of the college's Program in Bioethics and Humanities. "The findings also point to some challenges for physicians seeking emotional support after making an error."

The study results were based on surveys of 338 faculty and resident physicians at teaching hospitals in the United States. Previously published findings by Kaldjian and colleagues, based on the same data set, showed that doctors' actual communication of medical errors to hospitals and patients seems to occur less than it should when compared to physicians' positive attitudes about communicating such errors.

The two earlier studies also found that the more serious the outcome or harm from a hypothetical error, the more likely a doctor said they would communicate it to patients or hospitals. Similarly, the current study used hypothetical scenarios to reveal the likelihood of doctors discussing an error that results in no harm at 77 percent, minor harm at 87 percent, and major harm at 94 percent.

More than half of the physicians in the study (57 percent) said they had tried at least once to promote the value of discussing errors by discussing one of their own errors in front of students or physicians in training.

"It's encouraging that physicians try to be role models, especially for medical students and younger physicians, and some hospitals even have peer-support teams to help physicians in the aftermath of an error, though such teams appear to be rare," Kaldjian said.

Overall, Kaldjian said, increased discussion of errors amongst medical professionals is extremely important for professional learning and emotional support. Such discussions may also help physicians encourage each other to disclose errors to patients as part of patient care and to report them to institutions to improve patient safety.

The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars Program through a grant to Kaldjian.

The investigation involved researchers with the Center for Research in the Implementation of Innovative Strategies in Practice at the Department of Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven, Conn.; Yale University School of Medicine; and Penn State College of Medicine and Hershey Medical Center.

Download Center

  • Safety Metrics Guide

    Is your company leveraging its safety data and analytics to maintain a safe workplace? With so much data available, where do you start? This downloadable guide will give you insight on helpful key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track for your safety program.

  • Job Hazard Analysis Guide

    This guide includes details on how to conduct a thorough Job Hazard Analysis, and it's based directly on an OSHA publication for conducting JHAs. Learn how to identify potential hazards associated with each task of a job and set controls to mitigate hazard risks.

  • A Guide to Practicing “New Safety”

    Learn from safety professionals from around the world as they share their perspectives on various “new views” of safety, including Safety Differently, Safety-II, No Safety, Human and Organizational Performance (HOP), Resilience Engineering, and more in this helpful guide.

  • Lone Worker Safety Guide

    As organizations digitalize and remote operations become more commonplace, the number of lone workers is on the rise. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies. This guide was created to help employers better understand common lone worker risks and solutions for lone worker risk mitigation and incident prevention.

  • EHS Software Buyer's Guide

    Learn the keys to staying organized, staying sharp, and staying one step ahead on all things safety. This buyer’s guide is designed for you to use in your search for the safety management solution that best suits your company’s needs.

  • Vector Solutions

Featured Whitepaper

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - July August 2022

    July / August 2022

    Featuring:

    • CONFINED SPACES
      Specific PPE is Needed for Entry and Exit
    • HAZARD COMMUNICATION
      Three Quick Steps to Better HazCom Training
    • GAS DETECTION
      Building a Chemical Emergency Toolkit
    • RESPIRATORY PROTECTION
      The Last Line of Defense
    View This Issue