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Study Finds Doctors Not Reporting Medical Mistakes
Date:1/15/2008

While most say it's a good idea, only a few have actually owned up for the record

TUESDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Almost two-thirds of doctors say they are willing to report medical errors, but many of them just don't do it, a new study finds.

"The most important message seems to be that there is a gap between physicians' desire to report errors to improve performance over time and reporting of errors," said study author Dr. Lauris Kaldjian, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. His study of 338 doctors from teaching hospitals across the country is published in the Jan. 14 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study showed glaring differences between theory and practice. While 73 percent of the doctors said they would disclose any medical error that caused minor medical harm, and 92 percent said they would report an error that caused major damage, such as death or disability, only 18 percent said they had actually reported minor errors, while only 4 percent said they had made a major error and reported it.

Even more troubling, 17 percent acknowledged having made a minor error and not reporting it, while 4 percent indicated having made but not disclosed a major error.

The occurrence and reporting of medical errors became a big issue in 1999, when the U.S. Institute of Medicine issued a report, To Err Is Human, which estimated that the deaths of more than 100,000 Americans are tied to some form of medical mistake.

One big reason for the reporting gap appears to be that many physicians are unfamiliar with the reporting process, Kaldjian said. "We found that only about 55 percent of the respondents knew how to report errors," he said. "Only 40 percent knew what kind of errors should be reported."

The findings echo previous research on the issue, said Dr. Thomas Gallagher, an associate professor of medicine at
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