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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

The many faces of error disclosure: a common set of elements and a definition.

Fein SP, Hilborne LH, Spiritus EM, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2007;22(6):755-761.

When medical errors occur, patients desire full disclosure about the error and why it occurred. This qualitative study used focus groups of administrators, resident and attending physicians, and nurses to analyze how practitioners would describe a hypothetical error that caused patient harm. Respondents chose to communicate information about the error in ways that did not always clearly link the error and the adverse clinical outcome, a phenomenon also noted in prior research. The authors propose a formal definition of error disclosure, which incorporates admission and discussion of the error as well as providing sufficient information to "connect the dots" between the error and patient harm.