how willing are physicians to talk about medical mistakes ii

In the last post, our blog discussed the major problem in the medical community concerning physicians’ general unwillingness to confront or report their colleagues for both minor and major medical mistakes.

Specifically, we explored how this reluctance can likely be traced to the delicate interplay of office politics and the unspoken tenet that you don’t confront colleagues, particularly those with more experience or who occupy greater positions of authority.

Interestingly, a group of researchers recently published a set of guidelines in the New England Journal of Medicine designed to help facilitate communication among physicians regarding the issue of observed medical mistakes, something they say will serve to help patients who have been unduly harmed and help prevent the same mistakes from occurring in the future.

Using the phrase “Explore, don’t ignore,” these guidelines call for physicians to approach colleagues directly and respectfully, and to work together to determine the details of how to inform the patients of medical mistakes.

Those hospitals that have already implemented similar programs providing physicians a way to deal with the medical errors of colleagues indicate that they have helped improve patient safety and created a support system that actually encourages greater openness among physicians.

“We’ve created a culture where we’ve gone from 1,500 to 9,000 occurrence reports a year,” said an official at one Chicago-area hospital which has adopted a patient safety initiative.

While this may be working in some hospital settings, it remains to be seen how many physicians prove willing to adopt these guidelines in private practice or even clinical settings. The unfortunate reality is that the status quo will likely continue to prevail there, and that patients will be forced to search for answers after misdiagnoses, surgical errors and other medical mistakes.

If you feel that a medical mistake by a physician has harmed you or a loved one, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to understand your options and to ensure the protection of your rights.

Source: NBC News, “When docs make mistakes, should colleagues tell? Yes, report says,” JoNel Aleccia, Oct. 30, 2013

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