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Study reviews discussion of medical errors at hospital conferences

Doctors participating in internal medicine hospital conferences designed to review adverse medical events do not often discuss related medical errors, according to a study led by researchers from the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC).

Study results showed that participants in surgery conferences were more likely than those in internal medicine conferences to discuss medical errors as errors and to attribute errors to a particular cause. Conference leaders for both groups missed opportunities to use explicit language in error discussion, according to the researchers. The study appears in the December 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The findings of the study point to a culture that has difficulty acknowledging and dealing with error," says the study's senior author, Seth Landefeld, MD, associate chief of staff for geriatrics at SFVAMC, professor and chief of geriatrics at University of California, San Francisco, and senior scholar in the Department of Veterans Affairs National Quality Scholars Program.

"It's indicative that in our medical profession we are, by and large, thinking of ourselves within the framework of the individual actor and not stepping back and seeing the entire stage within which we operate. What we need to do is ask how we can better prepare this stage and help it function with as low an error rate as possible," he says.

According to a report published by the Institute of Medicine in 2000, each year an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals as a result of medical errors. Academic medical centers hold regular in-house meetings that are designed to address adverse events suffered by patients and to determine whether the events may have resulted from errors.

Protected by law from being used to bolster claims of medical malpractice, the aim of these morbidity and mortality conferences is to educate physi
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Contact: Liese Greensfelder
lgreensfelder@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-8429
University of California - San Francisco
4-Dec-2003


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