Disclosing harmful mammography errors to patients.
Disclosing errors to patients does not happen consistently, as physicians in patient-care–oriented specialties (such as internal medicine and surgery) frequently "choose their words carefully" and fail to fully disclose errors when they occur. This survey of radiologists who regularly interpret mammograms found that three-quarters regularly discuss mammogram results directly with patients, but only a minority would disclose any information about an error in interpretation without prompting from the patient. Despite patients' clear preference for full disclosure of errors, only 15% of radiologists said they would discuss the specifics of the error and how it occurred. Errors in cancer diagnosis are a frequent cause of malpractice lawsuits, but in this study, having been sued was not associated with likelihood of disclosing an error. The study's lead author, Dr. Thomas Gallagher, was interviewed for AHRQ WebM&M in January 2009.