Physicians and risk managers don't quite see eye to eye about revealing medical errors to patients, according to a new study in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety. The study, based on anonymous surveys of approximately 3,000 risk managers and 1,300 physicians, found that:

  • More risk managers than physicians strongly agreed that serious errors should be disclosed to patients (70 percent vs. 49 percent). However, physicians were more likely than risk managers to agree that near misses also should be disclosed (32 percent vs. 19 percent).
  • Risk managers were more likely than physicians to definitely recommend that an error be disclosed (76 percent vs. 50 percent) and to provide full details about how the error would be prevented in the future (62 percent vs. 51 percent).
  • Physicians were more likely than risk managers to provide a full apology recognizing the harm caused by the error (39 percent vs. 21 percent).

Study authors expressed concern that the difference between the two groups' attitudes could lead to conflict and diminish the effectiveness of disclosures. They advised organizations to anticipate potential conflicts and develop procedures to resolve these disagreements.

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