Brian Goldman: Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that?

Recently a video was uploaded to TED of a TED Talk given by Dr Brian Goldman (click here for the talk). Dr Goldman is an Emergency Room doctor in Toronto. His talk was about the consequences of doctors not being open about the errors they make. This video really complements the BBC radio 4 programme by Prof James Reason that I wrote about yesterday. The ideas covered are very similar, but Dr Goldman talks about his own errors and the experiences after it and what he wished he had done differently and how much he wished he could have spoken to someone about it.  He gave a very moving talk about the errors he had made and demonstrated just how much emotion healthcare professionals feel when they make an error and how gut wrenchingly sorry they are when it happens. Which is probably why the University of Michigan reported a reduction in compensation costs for medical errors when a hospital switched to an open reporting culture. On Prof Reason’s radio programme patients talked about the importance of being able to talk afterwards to the doctors who had made an error with their care. The University of Michigan team also commented that when doctors were open and spoke to their patients about the errors made, this meant that litigation processes were stopped, or were never even started in the first place because patients didn’t feel like something unjust had been done to them once they spoke to the doctors. My thought after watching and listening to these two programmes was, is the reduction in compensation costs for medical errors in Michigan because patients get to see doctors and therefore can see how sorry the doctors are, can see that those emotions are authentic and that they weren’t taking the error lightly? You can judge for yourselves, I now have to go off and read all these University of Michigan reports as I have to find out more!

One other thought I had after watching/listening to these programmes was that there is a lot of noise in healthcare at the moment about openness towards errors. What I am not sure about is whether this is something new, or I am only tuning in to it all at the moment because of the research I am doing, and because of talks within the pharmacy profession about creating a just culture (one aspect of a just culture is openness about errors). I clearly have to do some more reading of the literature to find out.

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