First we have the results of an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality survey of 600,000 staff from over 1100 hospitals. Half of them “believe their mistakes are held against them, and 54% said that when an adverse event is reported, ‘it feels like the person is being written up, not the problem.’" And two-thirds are concerned that records of errors are maintained in their personnel files. Despite lip service by medical thought leaders, the reported responses have not changed since the last AHRQ survey in 2007.
Much more alarming is the second amednews.com piece, which involves a family secretly recording a conversation with the chief medical officer [CMO] of an Ohio hospital.
Two days after knee surgery, a man died of cardiac arrest apparently secondary to an overlooked high serum potassium level. Before he died, the patient’s children met with the CMO, who had not personally been caring for the patient. Unaware that the conversation was being recorded, the CMO “made sympathetic and apologetic comments and admitted fault on the part of the hospital for Smith's condition, according to court records.”
The Ohio appellate court ruled that the secret recording was admissible and not protected by peer review privilege, as had been argued by the CMO’s lawyers. They had claimed that the CMO had learned of the error via the peer review process. Ohio law states that as long as one party consents, conversations can be recorded.
Thus we are left with pie-in-the-sky appeals for greater transparency and candor regarding medical errors [the so-called “Just Culture”] vs. a litigious society with stealth technical capabilites and a workplace atmosphere of fear and distrust.
Somehow I do not foresee a major change in the way doctors and hospital staffs approach this issue.