General Questions

We’ve compiled a list of answers to the most frequently asked questions from our members. They are designed to give you a better understanding of our organization, our services, and other technical information. 

Disclosure

Should we tell the patient and family that a medical error occurred?

Medical errors need to be disclosed to the patient and family. Not only are there regulatory notification requirements for disclosure, this is the right thing to do. It is in the “how to disclose errors” that physicians need to develop skills. There are certain guidelines that can help you:

  • Promptly notify patients with information you actually know.
  • Encourage a family meeting if necessary.
  • Prepare for any meeting with patient and/or family, as these can be difficult situations.
  • In very emotional situations invite a third person, such as a colleague or hospital risk management person to join you when meeting with the patient and/or family.
  • Remember 85% of communication is nonverbal, so be careful with your body language.
  • It is unfair to the patient and family to disclose speculation as information.
  • You can apologize for “what happened” without admitting liability.
  • Let them know that you continue to review their situation and more information will be shared when available.
  • Explain a reasonable timetable.
  • Get back to them on a regular basis, as they will be thinking about their situation daily.
  • Careful handling of “error disclosure” could help reduce both the potential and the severity of a claim.