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Physicians need encouragement to report colleagues' errors

We have written frequently on our blog about how doctors are often to blame for missing diagnoses, prescribing incorrect medicines or dosages, or otherwise making critical mistakes that lead to patient injury or even death. While it is easy to see these people as the villains, they are people too. When it comes to reporting mistakes that a colleague has made, doctors often take the very human route of not wanting to offend people -- and thus turning a blind eye toward a mistake they know has been made.

Depending on the severity of the mistake, such an action -- or inaction, as the case might be -- could lead to a claim of hospital negligence. As a result, many hospitals are undertaking campaigns to encourage physicians to report the errors they see made by their colleagues -- not as a punitive gesture, but as a matter of public health.

Of course, the last thing a doctor wants is to be contacted by investigators to question a mistake that he or she has made. But this is better than having a known error slip through the cracks, only to cause grief for affected patients and possibly large expenses for the hospital down the road. In many states, part of this process is for the doctor who made the mistake to personally apologize to an affected patient. This was frowned on in the past due to possible admissions of liability, but states are beginning to allow this practice without it factoring in to a potential medical malpractice suit.

Source: NBC News, "When docs make mistakes, should colleagues tell? Yes, report says," JoNel Aleccia, Oct. 30, 2013

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