Medical error reporting, patient safety, and the physician

J Patient Saf. 2009 Sep;5(3):176-9. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e3181b320b0.


Objectives: To shed light on factors that may help explain inaccurate medical error reporting and do not receive much attention: ob-gyns' comfort with reporting medical errors and personal experience with being injured while receiving medical care.

Methods: Questionnaires were sent to a total of 600 members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists between September and December 2006. The questionnaire included demographics and three questions about practice patterns and opinions about patient safety: (1) How comfortable are you reporting medical errors? (2) Have you or a friend/family member ever been injured while receiving medical care? (3) How frequently do you witness medical errors?

Results: A 53.2% response rate was obtained. Only 56.3% of ob-gyns "felt free" to frequently report medical errors, with no differences by sex or age. One in 5 (20.8%) reported that they or a family member had been injured by a medical error. Ob-gyns who reported that they or a friend or family member had been injured during medical care more frequently reported witnessing medical errors.

Conclusions: Our results show that many physicians do not feel free to report errors. Research on the decision making of physicians (e.g., person-who effect, regret avoidance, and the availability heuristic) may provide useful insights to problems with medical error reports.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Decision Making
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Errors*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, Hospital
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Risk Management*
  • Safety Management*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires