A new study recommends hospitals engender a culture of learning from errors to encourage error reporting by staff and to rectify possible systemic failures to improve patient safety. The study was presented at the recent Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology annual conference.
There is no uniform reporting among states in regard to releasing information about mistakes. In March, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report that indicated hospitals are not consistent in gathering information about preventable medical errors because of inadequate hospital data and poor internal tracking of medical errors by hospitals themselves.
Accurate reporting of errors depends upon whether organizations encourage, support, and follow up the documentation of errors and practices that can harm patients. Also, compiling information relies heavily on front-line employees, nurses, and medical staff, being able to report mistakes within a nonthreatening culture.
Often health care workers believe error reporting will result in blame and punishment. The study of two hospital care units found that organizations and leaders who promote a “learn from our mistakes” culture may bolster employees’ decisions to openly discuss errors.
“A smart organization knows that employees are aware of practices and incidents on the front-line that the administration does not want to hear. But the administration needs to encourage employees to report them anyway to avert disaster,” said Dana E. Sims, from the University of Central Florida and author of the study. Sometimes top hospital leaders are too insulated from what is happening within the organization, she added.
“In the long term, hearing what employees have to say can save lives as well as prevent expensive lawsuits and damages to a hospital’s reputation,” she said.