Knowledgeable and Experienced Guidance

Study finds adverse events difficult for surgeons to talk about

On Behalf of | Aug 12, 2016 | Doctor Errors |

As you can likely imagine, telling someone bad news in a medical setting is difficult. Imagine telling a patient, though, that an adverse event had occurred that was not the patient’s fault. One study has found that it is often very difficult for surgeons to tell patients that something had gone wrong.

A professional and internist at the medical school at the University of Washington said he can remember one patient who had a magnetic resonance imaging scan done at another facility because the hospital where he was receiving care didn’t have the MRI machine. The patient was transferred over to have the test done and then was taken back to the other hospital. The doctor, though, had to tell the man and his family that the wrong are of the man’s body had been scanned and the test had to be redone.

The doctor said, “The patient was disgusted. His family was furious… that after all the patient had gone through to get this test…we still couldn’t even figure out something this basic.”

The study, which was published in JAMA Surgery, used the data collected from surveys of 67 Veterans Affairs surgeons between January 2011 and December 2013. Thirty-five of those surgeons reported adverse events. Ninety percent of the surveys showed that an adverse event was reported to the patient and their families within 24 hours. They explained what had happened, why it happened and expressed their regret at the situation. Just a bit over half told the patient whether the event was preventable and apologized.

In addition, the study found that surgeons who believed an adverse event that is very serious or extremely serious and who didn’t talk about the event experienced anxiety over it. The reasons were because the surgeons thought they would get a negative reaction from the affected patient, it would have a negative impact on their reputation, they might get bad publicity or they might get sued.

The University of Washington professor said, “Lots of clinicians don’t feel comfortable about these conversations, and doctors say they don’t know what to say, they don’t know how to say it. I’ve had no training on having these conversations in medical school or residency.”

If you or a loved one have been injured due to an adverse event, you may have cause to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and more.

Source: Kaiser Health News, “For Surgeons, Talking About Adverse Events Can Be Difficult: Study,” Zhai Yun Tan, July 20, 2016