Communicating Medical Errors: can’t we do better?

Communicating Medical Errors: can’t we do better?


The latest stats are in from a recent survey of patients on disclosing medical errors and adverse events. The data shows that providers need a good lesson in both communication and empathy. The results are dismal at best and clearly show a lack of transparency and accountability in the culture of healthcare at the bedside:

  • 90% of patients indicated concern over a lack of accountability on the part of providers.
  • 48% of patients indicated the provider insisted that care had been appropriate despite assessments from the patient and family that said otherwise.
  • 47% of patients reported the provider denied responsibility.
  • 40% of patients reported providers took a secretive approach to investigating medical errors and were unwilling to include the family in the investigation.
  • patients and family members expressed a lack of communication with healthcare providers, reporting that their concerns were not heard or addressed. 
  • patients reported attempts to convey the nature and severity of their current health status were disregarded.
  • patients reported being met with hostility when they offered physicians feedback or additional information. 
  • 1/3 of patients reported that the healthcare providers who initially cared for them refused further communication following the adverse event

After reviewing and sharing this article, my heart is heavy and frustrated with the poor communication between provider and patient. My hospital colleagues and I go to work each day, wanting to “do good”. We are highly educated, skilled and trained for many many years in the “right procedure, right treatment, and right care”. However, sometimes things don’t always go as planned, and this is where true character and integrity must prevail to be open and honest in disclosing medical errors. More importantly, the hospital SYSTEM needs to be designed with systems engineering approach to mitigate errors, along with supporting a non-punitive learning culture organization. So, friends and colleagues, my challenge is large for ZERO PATIENT HARM.. and my ask is great – “can we do a better job?”

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