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Medical Errors Should Be Used to Improve Patient Care

Doc says understanding that mistakes happen can help physicians determine processes to improve

THURSDAY, Oct. 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Medical errors occur and should be used to help improve medical processes, according to a report from the American Medical Association.

At a recent TEDMED event, Danielle Ofri, M.D., Ph.D., from the New York University School of Medicine in New York City, discussed her experience as a medical trainee when she overlooked a patient's intracranial bleed.

Ofri notes that the number of decisions which doctors must make every day means that there will always be errors. However, the culture in academic medical centers, which is instilled into residents, is to not to disclose errors. In a 2014 survey of medical trainees, most trainees were found to have made or observed a harmful medical error. Ofri suggests that the culture needs to change and physicians should accept that mistakes happen and initiate processes to improve. Errors are part of the native "behavioral flora" and should be used to benefit patients.

"If we hear from the titans of medicine that errors are a reality in medicine -- we might be able to redefine our definition of perfection," Ofri said during her talk. "Patients are ill-served by an impossible ideal of perfection that gives patients unrealistic expectations and keeps doctors and nurses from coming forward with errors because of shame."

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