Physicians Look At What Causes Doctors' Mistakes

No one knows for sure how often doctors' mistakes make their patients worse. That's why physicians from all over Mississippi and Louisiana were in Biloxi this weekend to discuss doctors errors and how they affect patients.

Researcher and doctor Andy Brown told a group of Mississippi and Louisiana physicians that when doctors make mistakes not only does the health of their patients suffer, but so does the doctor-patient relationship.

"There may be some side effects such as not trusting their doctor or the hospital," said Brown. "Or a little anxious about, 'What if he does something next time? Am I going to have to buy in to what he's prescribing me?'"

Mistakes can include giving patients the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. Some doctors say communication problems are the main causes of those errors.

Dr. Joe Files, an internist from Jackson, said, "The errors are potentiated in many ways, the physician is one component of that. Patients and pharmacists, and delivery systems all take some responsibility in that."

"A lot of miscommunication between physicians, nurses and patients. A lot because of paperwork, the bureaucracy, bad handwriting," said Dr. Jesse Williams of Columbus.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center is conducting a $4 million study into health care mistakes that happen outside of hospitals. However, researchers say collecting data will be difficult as long as reporting mistakes could cost health care providers their jobs.

"You can't punish people for doing the right thing and admitting errors," said Files. "Focusing on how to improve the errors or improve the systems to keep from having those errors is what we need to do."

Researchers says the study will be important to Mississippi because it will focus on health care needs in our state. They say because Mississippi is more rural than other places, many people don't have access to health care.

by Danielle Thomas