Reporting and disclosing medical errors: pediatricians' attitudes and behaviors

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007 Feb;161(2):179-85. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.161.2.179.


Objective: To characterize pediatricians' attitudes and experiences regarding communicating about errors with the hospital and patients' families.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: St Louis, Mo, and Seattle, Wash.

Participants: University-affiliated hospital and community pediatricians and pediatric residents.

Main exposure: Anonymous 68-item survey (paper or Web-based) administered between July 2003 and March 2004.

Main outcome measures: Physician attitudes and experiences about error communication.

Results: Four hundred thirty-nine pediatric attending physicians and 118 residents participated (62% response rate). Most respondents had been involved in an error (39%, serious; 72%, minor; 61%, near miss; 7%, none). Respondents endorsed reporting errors to the hospital (97%, serious; 90%, minor; 82%, near miss), but only 39% thought that current error reporting systems were adequate. Most pediatricians had used a formal error reporting mechanism, such as an incident report (65%), but many also used informal reporting mechanisms, such as telling a supervisor (47%) or senior physician (38%), and discussed errors with colleagues (72%). Respondents endorsed disclosing errors to patients' families (99%, serious; 90%, minor; 39%, near miss), and many had done so (36%, serious; 52%, minor). Residents were more likely than attending physicians to believe that disclosing a serious error would be difficult (96% vs 86%; P = .004) and to want disclosure training (69% vs 56%; P = .03).

Conclusions: Pediatricians are willing to report errors to hospitals and disclose errors to patients' families but believe current reporting systems are inadequate and struggle with error disclosure. Improving error reporting systems and encouraging physicians to report near misses, as well as providing training in error disclosure, could help prevent future errors and increase patient trust.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Errors / ethics
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / ethics
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pediatrics / ethics
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / ethics
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Truth Disclosure*
  • United States