Improving medical students

How to Correct Medical Errors

Posted by medliorator on December 2, 2008

Megan Fix, MD:

When medical errors occur, it is our duty to disclose them. Truthful disclosure is good for patients. Recent evidence shows us that most patients actually prefer to know about medical errors that have happened to them. Furthermore, surveyed patients said they would be less likely to sue if they were informed of the error by the attending physician.

The easiest way is to be direct and honest in a respectful manner. You are never wrong if you put the patient first. Remember that you are a part of a team.

Get the facts
It never hurts to say something like, “this may be a ridiculous question but…” or “I may be mistaken, but…” This is a respectful way to ask what is right for the patient and oftentimes, once the error is identified, both you and the attending physician can then respond and inform the patient together.

You may feel compelled to “tell” on the attending physician or resident who committed the error, but this will not only undermine your relationship with the patient, it will also create distrust and lack of confidence within the whole medical team… One way is to respect the authority of the attending physician by asking for their assistance. This can help deflect possible defensiveness that may arise. For example, you might say, “I spoke with Mrs. Jones and she is very concerned about X. I would like your help discussing it with her.” If that does not work, then approach your resident. Again, put the patient first as in, “I was concerned about our patient when I saw Y. I’d like to talk to the attending physician, will you join me?”

What Should I Do If I Witness a Medical Error? [Medscape]

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