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PUBLICATION: Communication about medical errors

Communication about medical errors with patients and families demonstrates respect, compassion, and commitment by providing information, acknowledging harm, and maintaining trust through a process of dialogue that involves multiple conversations. This communication requires knowledge, skills, and attitudes that allow healthcare professionals to discuss facts transparently, take responsibility for what happened, and express regret and (as appropriate) apologize; these abilities also allow professionals to describe what will happen next for the patient and explain what will be done to prevent the error from happening to others in the future. Communication about medical errors also encompasses two other contexts: reporting information about errors to healthcare organizations through data collection systems designed to improve patient safety, and discussing errors with fellow healthcare professionals to promote professional learning and receive emotional support. Communication about errors in these three contexts depends on healthcare professionals who are honest, reflective, compassionate, courageous, accountable, reassuring, and willing to acknowledge and engage their own feelings of sadness, fear, and guilt. Healthcare organizations should promote a systems approach to patient safety and cultivate a culture of transparency and learning in which healthcare professionals are supported as they cope with the distress they experience after an error. Communication about errors should be incorporated into all healthcare practice settings (medical, surgical, in-patient, out-patient), and can be taught to medical students and residents using didactic, role-playing, or simulation methodologies.


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Tuesday, November 30, 2021