Only Some Primary Care Physicians Would Disclose Medical Errors

While most primary care physicians (PCPs) would provide some information, only a minority would fully disclose medical error information, according to a survey from Georgia State University.

Published in BMJ Quality and Safety, findings show most of the nearly 300 PCPs would share only partial information about a medical error for two hypothetical cases involving cancer diagnoses and most would provide only a limited or no apology, limited or no explanation and limited or no information about the cause.

The study analyzed the extent to which PCPs’ perceptions of event-level, physician-level and organization-level factors impact their intent to share a medical error in challenging situations. The strongest predictors of disclosure were:

  • Perceived responsibility
  • Perceived seriousness of the event
  • Perceived value of patient-centered information

“The intent to disclose was not as frequent as we thought it might be,” said Dr. Douglas Roblin, professor in the Division of Health Management and Policy in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University and researcher at the Center for Clinical and Outcomes Research at Kaiser Permanente Georgia. “The two vignettes gave pretty consistent findings. The majority would not fully disclose, and we were hoping for full disclosure because that is the ethical expectation.”

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