Imagine that you go to see your doctor, and he makes a mistake. It may not even be a very serious mistake — but it is a mistake nonetheless. However, you aren’t informed about the mistake, and your doctor doesn’t really report it to anyone. The mistake is simply made and you go on your way thinking that you have receiving the appropriate care that you deserve.
A month later you are still suffering from the same condition you thought was fixed by your doctor. Let’s say that, this time, your doctor gets it right and your condition is completely healed. This is obviously a good outcome for the patient — but the affect these unreported errors have on the medical system are immense.
Huge amounts of knowledge are lost when errors go unreported. The medical system is inherently less able to learn from that error and to fix future errors because, after all, it doesn’t even know this error existed. In addition, there are financial costs to these mistakes. Patients have to pay more and hospitals have to bring in more supplies or use more of their time tending to the error that they don’t even really know about.
It’s complex and ugly, and it’s why error reporting systems in the medical field need to be improved. A recent report showed this, finding that a medical error disclosure program not only helps patients receive better care, but it also makes error reporting more transparent, thus improving the medical system as a whole. It also cuts down on related legal claims and financial payments.
Source: Healio, “Medical error disclosure policy helped cut claims, costs,” April 29, 2014