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How the healthcare system may cause harm – Part IX

Full disclosure and transparency is a standard that may be applied to almost all industries, including healthcare. Yet many in Kew Gardens may discover that finding information about those providing their care can be a difficult process. Part of that may be due to poor record sharing across different healthcare facilities and clinics. However, another reason why patients may have little access to their providers’ histories may be that oftentimes (particularly in cases involving errors), healthcare professionals may hesitate to disclose such information.

The AARP Bulletin recently shared the potentially disturbing results of two patient care studies. The first showed that nearly 66 percent of cardiologists surveyed admitted to failing to report serious errors of which they had firsthand knowledge. The second reported that only roughly one-third of preventable adverse events that patients experienced ended up being recorded in their medical records. These results may serve to further contribute to a common stigma associated with clinical practitioners that they have a tendency to take care of their own, hiding or denying information to protect their colleagues even at potential expense of a patient’s well-being.

An excerpt from the Code of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association shared by the JAMA Network states that “physicians should at all times deal honestly and openly with patients.” According to JAMA, the generally accepted definition of the medical error is any failure in the process of providing care, regardless of the outcome. The trouble is that many practitioners may wait to see if their errors cause harm (and if so, to what degree) before disclosing them to patients. However, the information shared by JAMA also states that providers need to recognize the perspective of their patients when deciding what information they may be obliged to share. 

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