Transformative possibilities of communication in medical error cases in Japan

Okamoto, Sawako; Kawahara, Kazuo; Algren, Margaret
February 2011
International Journal for Quality in Health Care;Feb2011, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p26
Academic Journal
Objective This study examines perceptions of persons who experienced a medical error and elements that may serve to open communication with those who experienced a medical error in Japan. Design Survey of individuals who reported a previous medical error in their care and those who did not. Setting Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya metropolitan areas, and in Fukuoka, Shimane and Miyagi rural townships in Japan. Participants Questionnaires were distributed to 80 people who had experienced a medical error and 300 people who had not. Main Outcome Measures Prevalence of views, expectations and psychological needs regarding medical error. Results Forty (50%) questionnaires from those who experienced the errors and 201 (67%) from those who did not experience a medical error were completed. Among those who experienced error, 95% (38/40) preferred to be informed of a medical error immediately by senior personnel (57.7%: 23/40). Those who had not experienced error preferred to be informed by a directly responsible provider (87.6%: 176/201). The perception differences regarding who should break bad news showed statistical significance (P<0.001). Respondents reports that ‘communication’, ‘apology’ and ‘corrective actions’ can contribute to promoting resolution. Conclusions This study showed that after the immediate disclosure of a medical error by senior medical personnel and medical providers should create an environment to continue ‘communication’ in order to accommodate shifting perspectives of those who experienced the error.


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