Differences in attitudes among physicians and risk managers about revealing medical errors to patients may diminish the effectiveness of such disclosures, according to a new study published in the March 2010 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.
The study, “Risk Managers, Physicians, and Disclosure of Harmful Medical Errors,” based on anonymous surveys of nearly 3,000 risk managers and roughly 1,300 physicians, showed that risk managers have more favorable attitudes about disclosing errors to patients compared with physicians.
Risk managers, however, were less supportive of providing a full apology. Risk managers also expressed more favorable attitudes about the mechanisms at their hospitals or health care organizations to inform physicians about errors, but, like physicians, reported that there is much room for improvement in systems to report errors.
The authors of the study urge closer collaboration between risk managers and physicians in the disclosure process. They also advise that it’s important that hospital policies make clear who has final authority over whether and how disclosures to patients will take place.
The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, published monthly by Joint Commission Resources, features peer-reviewed research and case studies on improving quality and patient safety in health care organizations. More information on the journal is available at www.jcrinc.com.