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Preventable Error Reporting Hindered by Fear of Reprisal

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 22, 2012

Hospitals and other healthcare organizations have done a good job in the last 20 years building mechanisms to monitor and report preventable errors. However, those efforts are hobbled by clinicians' reluctance to report colleagues' mistakes for fear of retaliation, according to a new report from the National Association for Healthcare Quality.

"In fact, as attention to creating a culture of safety in healthcare organizations has increased, so have concomitant reports of retaliation and intimidation targeting staff who voice concern about safety and quality deficiencies," according to the report, Call to Action: Safeguarding the Integrity of Healthcare Quality and Safety Systems.

Peter Angood, MD, CEO of the American College of Physician Executives, which helped compile the report, says the fear of retaliation is "very distinct and quite palpable in many organizations to the point that there is even a fear of making comment" about the existence of the threat.

"It is multi-factorial," Angood tells HealthLeaders Media. "Some of it comes from historical orientation of hospitals and healthcare systems towards the physicians and making sure they are happy and as long as they are happy there is good patient flow and everybody wins.

As we transition off of that entire focus toward physicians and more towards patients there are the lingering cultural habits of not wanting to cross the physician's path if things aren't going right."

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