Patients Who Experience Adverse Events Are More Satisfied with Care if Physicians Discuss the Adverse Events with Them

November 10, 2009

Researchers have found that patients who experience an adverse event while hospitalized are more satisfied with their care if hospital staff members discuss the adverse event with them.

Patients who experience an adverse event while hospitalized are likely to rate the quality of their care higher if the adverse event is discussed with them, a new study has found. However, even though patients were generally more satisfied with their care if the adverse event was discussed with them, the study also found that less than half of adverse events that were reported by patients were actually discussed with them by hospital staff.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that, in the group of nearly 2,600 patients who were surveyed, 603 of them reported “a total of 845 ‘negative effects or complications’ from their hospitalization,” according to the researchers. For these individuals who experienced an adverse event, defined by the researchers as “an injury caused by some aspect of medical care and not by the underlying medical condition,” only 40% of the events they reported were later discussed with them by hospital staff members. According to the researchers, adverse events that resulted in additional treatment were often discussed with patients, but “preventable events and those associated with a more prolonged impact on the patient were less likely to be disclosed.” In addition, those patients who had the event discussed with them ranked their care as good or excellent twice as often as patients who were not approached about the event.

The researchers examined data taken from a larger survey of patients. These patients in the larger study had stayed at one of 16 Massachusetts hospitals for at least one night during a six-month period in 2003.

“It's quite notable that high-quality ratings continued to be associated with disclosure even when the event was determined to be preventable," said study lead author Lenny Lopez, MD, MPH, of the MGH Institute for Health Policy. "Although rates of disclosure remain disappointingly low, our findings should encourage more disclosure and allay fears of malpractice lawsuits. Patients want to be told the truth, and they perceive disclosure as integral to high-quality medical care."

Findings of the study were published in the November 9 Archives of Internal Medicine.