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To talk or not to talk (about medical errors) is the question

Going to the doctor can be scary when someone is having unusual symptoms or an extreme amount of pain. What happens when an Arizona resident braves the experience, shows up for the appointment, and comes out with a wrong diagnosis? 

Misdiagnoses are not as uncommon as one might think. Several years back, the American Medical Association reported a 10 to 20 percent incidence of doctors either completely missing the mark or taking so long to come to a conclusion that patients suffered in the meantime. 

In 2016, John Hopkins University labeled medical errors as the "third leading cause of death in the U.S.," following heart disease in first place and cancer in second. JHU is quick to point out all the blame does not belong on doctors but on the system of medical care. Some of the fault, researchers say, is at least in part due to the following:

  • Differences in physicians' approaches to the same medical issues
  • Lack of accountability among varying physicians
  • Care that is not coordinated well
  • Insurance networks that have become fragmented

While JHU professionals recommend continuing to research best ways to prevent medical errors, others are already putting new practices into place for responding when physicians and other medical staff do make mistakes. 

The Washington Post described the "deny and defend" model, which at one time was the go-to approach for healthcare professionals. It incorporated a lack of transparency and a hush-hush strategy in the wake of errors. 

Today, the Post says, more hospitals are employing CANDOR - Communication and Optimal Resolution. A more open approach that keeps victims out of the dark, CANDOR encourages an immediate investigation of the error. When investigators understand what happened, they share it honestly with the family, apologizing and offering compensation at the same time. 

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