Which factors most influence physicians' intentions to admit to medical errors? 3 insights

A new study, published in BMJ Quality & Safety, examined the extent to which primary care physicians' perceptions of various factors influenced their intent to disclose a medical error.

The study involved a cross-sectional survey containing two hypothetical situations:

•    Delayed diagnosis of breast cancer
•    Breakdown of care coordination causing a delayed response to patient symptoms

In both cases, multiple physicians shared responsibility for the error. The study included responses from 297 primary care physicians from three integrated healthcare delivery systems located in Washington, Massachusetts and Georgia.

Researchers looked at a number of physician-level, event-level and organization-level factors, including feelings about practice, perceived seriousness of the event and perceived support from the organization for communication and time constraints.

Here are three insights:

1. A majority of respondents would not fully disclose the error in either situation.

2. The strongest predictors of disclosure were perceived personal responsibility, perceived seriousness of the event and perceived value of patient-centered communication.

3. The aforementioned variables were consistently associated with intent to disclose.

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