As Arizona residents may know, 200,000 patients die annually because of preventable medical error. There is an effort underway to change that, but its success is often a casualty of traditional attitudes. A study published in 2005 elaborated on interactions between health care workers and documented that a layer of silence prevents mistakes from coming to light.
The study looked at the freedom with which members of a health care team call out other team members when a medical error is made. Investigators interviewed 1,700 nurses, doctors, administrators and clinical staff to determine the way in which health care workers dealt with mistakes not conducive to good medical care. Out of those questioned, more than 50 percent said they observed poor judgment, various errors, incompetence and inappropriate team behavior. However, less than one in ten said anything. Eighty-four percent of physicians, who were interviewed, reported seeing doctor errors while 88 percent said they witnessed bad clinical judgement.
Overall, reasons for remaining silent when aberrations are seen may range from a desire not to tarnish a physician's reputation to fear of recrimination. Some reported thinking that they might be perceived as something less than a team player. Others said they thought the input would be dismissed.
One idea involves a way to monitor behavior, judgment choices and competence using video cameras and new technological breakthroughs. This, the promoters say, would pick up potential risky errors allowing the team to repair the errors without causing friction.
When a patient is harmed by a medical error, the patient may experience the need for additional medical care, lost time at work and financial difficulties. Speaking with an attorney may help. The attorney might review the case with expert input and, if appropriate, file a medical malpractice lawsuit.