Anonymity or transparency in reporting of medical error: a community-based survey in South Australia

Med J Aust. 2004 Jun 7;180(11):577-80. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2004.tb06095.x.


Objectives: To seek public opinion on the reporting of medical errors and the anonymity of healthcare workers who report medical errors.

Design and participants: A random, representative survey of 2005 South Australians in April 2002, using telephone interviews based on a vignette provided.

Main outcome measures: When a medical error occurs (i) whether the incident should be reported, and (ii) whether the report should disclose the healthcare worker's identity.

Results: (i) Most respondents (94.2%; 95% CI, 93.0%-95.2%) believed healthcare workers should report medical errors. (ii) 68.0% (95% CI, 65.5%-70.5%) of those in favour of reporting believed the healthcare worker should be identified on the report, while 29.2% (95% CI, 26.7%-31.7%) favoured anonymous reporting.

Conclusions: Most respondents believed that, when a healthcare worker makes an error, an incident report should be written and the individual should be identified on the report. Respondents were reluctant to accept healthcare worker anonymity, even though this may encourage reporting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Confidentiality*
  • Disclosure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Errors* / ethics
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion*
  • South Australia
  • Surveys and Questionnaires