Doctors’ views of attitudes towards peer medical error

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Abstract

Background:

This study aims at evaluating doctors’ attitudes towards handling medical errors made by their peers.

Materials:

This cross-sectional questionnaire survey was conducted between April and July 2006 and targeted general practitioners attending continuing medical education programmes in Tehran. A total of 474 doctors were approached, 400 of whom completed the questionnaire. The questionnaire contained a clinical vignette with three hypothetical patient outcomes: near-miss, leading to harm, and leading to death. The participants were asked how they would deal with each case. They were also asked how they would prefer their peers to react when they themselves made a medical error.

Results:

The most common attitude toward peers’ medical errors was reporting it to the original doctor and asking them to disclose it to the patient (near-miss: 63.0%; 95% CI 58% to 68%; leading to harm: 70.0%; 95% CI 65.4% to 74.6%; and leading to death: 62.5%; 95% CI 57.5% to 67.5%). In most cases, doctors expected their peers to report their medical errors to them (92.7%; 95% CI 89.7% to 93.0). About 67% of the participating doctors had encountered a peer’s medical error in the past 6 months, although 90% of them had received no or very little training in dealing with this issue.

Discussion:

The most acceptable approach to dealing with a peer’s medical error is to report it to the responsible doctor and encourage them to disclose it to the patient.

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