Error disclosure and family members' reactions: Does the type of error really matter?

Daniela Leone, Giulia Lamiani, Elena Vegni, Susan Larson, Debra L. Roter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe how Italian clinicians disclose medical errors with clear and shared lines of responsibility. Methods: Thirty-eight volunteers were video-recorded in a simulated conversation while communicating a medical error to a simulated family member (SFM). They were assigned to a clear responsibility error scenario or a shared responsibility one. Simulations were coded for: mention of the term "error" and apology; communication content and affect using the Roter Interaction Analysis System. SFMs rated their willingness to have the patient continue care with the clinician. Results: Clinicians referred to an error and/or apologized in 55% of the simulations. The error was disclosed more frequently in the clear responsibility scenario (p < 0.02). When the "error" was explicitly mentioned, the SFM was more attentive, sad and anxious (p ≤ 0.05) and less willing to have the patient continue care (p < 0.05). Communication was more patient-centered ( p < 0.05) and affectively dynamic with the SFMs showing greater anxiety, sadness, attentiveness and respectfulness in the clear responsibility scenario (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Disclosing errors is not a common practice in Italy. Clinicians disclose less frequently when responsibility is shared and indicative of a system failure. Practice implications: Training programs to improve disclosure practice considering the type of error committed should be implemented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-452
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015


  • Apology
  • Medical error
  • RIAS
  • Simulation
  • Truth disclosure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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