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Study finds more training needed for medical error disclosure

Voluntary disclosure of medical errors by providers may be better than in the past but further effort is needed in this area.

When a doctor or other medical professional makes a mistake, it is the patient who is at risk for being injured. Some people in Ohio and around the nation who have been affected by a medical error may end up with long-lasting injuries. Some even die. The critical nature of a medical mistake raises the question about how professionals should handle these situations.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania takes a look at what is generally done today and what more may need to be done to improve patient transparency into these situations.

A historical look at error disclosure

According to the Washington Post, as recently as 20 years ago, error disclosure was not an area of focus in medical schools. Physicians were often actively instructed to hide mistakes from patients and to be vague in their responses if asked directly about them.

In the last 10 or so years, a shift has taken place in which voluntary disclosure of errors is starting to be seen as not only essential and right but actually positive for the patient-provider relationship.

Study highlights gaps in current models

University of Pennsylvania researchers took a look at how physicians and provider systems are addressing the disclosure of medical errors today. Some follow a model with three steps: disclosure, apology and offer. However, the study highlighted that this models really only addresses the legal and financial elements of a medical mistake and omit the psychosocial aspects.

New approach recommended

The study points out that a cultural transformation is needed so that physicians do not let the fear of long-term reputation damage, shame or guilt get in the way of them doing what is right. Training should leverage things like role playing so that providers get practice in informing patients about errors.

The researchers also indicate that physicians should be taught to focus less on their own part in an error and look at the involvement of the entire provider system. Some believe that medical errors may have more to do with procedural or other systemic problems in a medical system than with the individual provider.

Laws on voluntary disclosure

As many as 34 states have laws that prevent any communication from a provider admitting an error from being used as proof of liability in a lawsuit. This is said to help encourage providers to be honest about mistakes.

However, Ohio residents still deserve to seek compensation if a medical mistake has happened. As the medical community continues to find ways to deal with these admissions, patients and their family members should always reach out to an attorney for help in these situations.