Accreditation

AHRQ toolkit teaches how to face up to medical errors

Accreditation Insider, August 23, 2016

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Medical errors happen too often, and can cause irreversible and irreparable injury to patients when they do. While there is a myriad of ways to try and prevent errors from happening, every hospital needs to have policies in place for when they occur.

A common approach of responding to medical errors is to hide the details of them from patients, also known as the “deny-and-defend” strategy. Often this is done out of fear that a patient or their family will get angry and sue if they find out a mistake was made during their care. There’s also the possibility that the hospital would have to foot the bill for any follow-up care necessitated by the mistake, or waive a patient’s bills.

That said, studies have found that patients are more inclined to sue if they think their physician has been hiding something from them. Therefore, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published an online toolkit this May that suggests that physicians do the exact opposite. The toolkit, Communication and Optimal Resolution (CANDOR), emphasizes openness with patients and family when a mistake happens.

Some hospitals are now having physicians and medical students go through role-playing scenarios where they have to explain a mistake to a patient or their family. MedStar Health, a provider in Maryland and Washington, D.C., created a “Go Team” of physicians trained in disclosing medical errors that remains on standby to provide support to staff when they need to tell a patient about a mistake.

“We felt horrible that we couldn’t openly talk to patients and families … our attorneys would tell us we can’t do that because we’re going to give them all the information that will cause us to lose a lawsuit,” David Mayer, vice president of MedStar told Kaiser Health Media.  “There were no winners”



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