Healthcare News & Insights

Are your staffers afraid to report errors?

Pop quiz time: If an employee spots a medical error, what is he/she most likely to do?

  1. Report it right away.
  2. Keep it to him/herself.
  3. It depends on the kind of policy your facility has on reporting safety/medical error incidents.

Of course, you’d hope the answer is A – that staff would drop everything and report it immediately. But for many facilities, the answer is C – it depends on your policy.

A recent study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), revealed many hospitals still are lagging behind in their open communication of medical errors. The study, which surveyed nearly 600,000 staffers at more than 1,110 hospitals nationwide, found:

  • 54% said when an adverse event is reported, “it feels like the person is being written up, not the problem”
  • nearly 50% of participants said they felt their mistakes were held against them, and
  • almost 66% said they worried mistakes were being held in their personnel file.

The AHRQ did its first patient-safety culture report in 2007, and unfortunately, only about one-fifth of hospitals have improved their performance in the category of “non-punitive response to error,” — and 16% have gotten worse! The rest are struggling to make progress.

What hospital executives have to realize is the “carry a big stick” approach when it comes to staff making medical errors only places patients in more danger.

The American Medical Association supports non-punitive policies for reporting safety incidents. Your employees need to feel OK with admitting mistakes. They need to know that they won’t be punished – unless it’s an act intended to cause harm or noncompliance with safety protocols. But regular “oops” mistakes need to be looked into and learned from.

Yes, this is much easier to write than to do, but studies are showing that higher safety culture scores are correlated with better clinical outcomes and lower rates of hospital-acquired conditions.

Here are some articles from the AHRQ that can help you improve your safety practices:


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