Only Half Of Pediatricians Would Report Medical Errors

Armen Hareyan's picture

The questioning of pediatricians about the ways of how they would report medical errors reveals that only half of them is willing to properly disclose medical errors to child's family.

A team of researchers from University of Washington School of Medicine analysed data of a survey conducted between July 1, 2003 and March 31, 2004 involving 205 pediatricians. The doctors were told various scenarios describing medical errors, such as a child is hospitalised because of insulin overdose or because of bacteremia occurred after wrong lab test performed by a pediatrician. Doctors were then asked to give ideas on how they will talk to child's family about these errors. The doctors were measured for the degree of error disclosure and were given marks -- none, partial, full.

Survey data analysis found that pediatricians tend not to disclose less obvious errors. For example, the number of doctors disclosing bacteremia was 32%, while insulin overdose reports were 60%. Those reporting more serious errors were more likely (33%) to sorry about the error, compared to 20% of those failing in less obvious situations. However, they were less likely (31%) to explain the cause of situation, compared to 50% of those in less serious errors.


Overall, 53% of pediatricians told they would report an error indeed, 40% they would probably do so, 7% would do so only in case when they are directly asked about the error. Pediatricians were also questioned about the type of error disclosure statement: 59% of pediatricians told they will just fill out a document offered as statement, 41% said they would also add a paper of their own explaining why the error actually occurred.

Unfortunately, only 26% of pediatricians were willing to apologize for the medical errors they are responsible for, but 50% of all questioned doctors were willing to discuss further improvements that are needed in medical error reporting and minimising system.

Researchers concluded that previous experience of medical errors in pediatrician's practice significantly increases the willingness to disclose the error in details and give an explanation why the error actually occurred. However, previous training of how to report medical errors did not significantly increase this rate.

Nowadays there are a lot of hospitals and pediatric centers adopting medical error disclosure policies, but it is also very important to train those still studying and already working doctors and prepare to error disclosure. For every single doctor ths is a very difficult problem to solve, especially for pediatricians because children are more helpless than adults. Doctors must be prepared for medical errors and and how to talk about the errors to patient family members.