Guidelines needed for informing patients of medical errors

National guidelines are needed for timely disclosure of medical errors and informing patients, write Toronto-based researchers in a review http://www.cmaj.ca/press/pg1125.pdf in CMAJ (www.cmaj.ca).

While there are guidelines outlining how health care providers communicate medical errors to patients, few exist in Canada or other countries for disclosing errors affecting large numbers of patients. Having national guidelines would help ensure more timely disclosure. The authors argue that governments and health care organizations should create clear guidelines around how large-scale adverse events should be addressed and disclosed to those affected by them.

“The disclosure of a large-scale medical error is not a single event, but rather an ongoing process,” write Dr. Roger Chafe and coauthors. They call for clear communications, an external analysis to identify cause and a review that focuses on actions to ensure quality of care rather than punishment.

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