Medical errors -- Reporting, Patients -- Safety measures


Transparency in healthcare relates to formally reporting medical errors and disclosing bad outcomes to patients and families. Unfortunately, most physicians are not in the habit of communicating transparently, as many studies have shown the existence of a large medical error information gap. Research also shows that creating a culture of transparency would mutually support patient safety and risk management goals by concomitantly reducing medical errors and alleviating the malpractice crisis. Three predictor variables are used to represent the various dimensions of the context just described. Perfectionism represents the intrapersonal domain, socio-organizational climate represents the interpersonal and institutional domains, and medico-legal environment represents the societal domain. Chin and Benne’s normative re-educative strategy provides theoretical support for the notion that successful organizational change hinges upon addressing the structural and cultural barriers displayed by individuals and groups. The Physician Transparency Questionnaire was completed by 270 physicians who were drawn from a multi-site healthcare organization in Central Florida. Structural equation modeling was used to determine whether perfectionism, socio-organizational climate, and medico-legal environment significantly predict two transparency outcomes, namely, error reporting transparency and provider-patient transparency. Perfectionism and socio-organizational climate were found to be statistically significant predictors. Collectively, these variables accounted for nearly half of the variance in each transparency outcome. Within socio-organizational climate, policies had the greatest influence iv on transparency, followed by immunity and professional norms. Multiple group analysis showed that the covariance model developed in this study generalizes across gender, medical specialty, and occupation. In addition, group means comparisons tests revealed a number of interesting trends in error reporting and disclosure practices that provide insights about the behavioral and cognitive psychology behind transparent communication: 1) Physicians are more inclined to engage in provider-patient transparency compared to error reporting transparency, 2) physicians are more inclined to report serious errors compared to less serious errors, and 3) physicians are more inclined to express sympathy for bad outcomes than they are to apologize for a preventable error or be honest about the details surrounding bad outcomes. These results suggest that change efforts would need to be directed at medical education curricula and health provider organizations to ensure that current and future generations of physicians replace the pursuit for perfectionism with the pursuit for excellence. Also, a number of institutional changes are recommended, such as clearly communicating transparency policies and guidelines, promoting professional norms that encourage learning from mistakes rather than an aversion to error, and reassuring physicians that reporting and disclosure activities will not compromise their reputation. From the perspective of patient safety advocates and risk managers, the results are heartening because they emphasize a key principle in quality improvement - i.e., small changes can yield big results. From an ethical standpoint, this research suggests that healthcare organizations can inhibit (or facilitate) the emergence of professional virtues. Thus, although organizations cannot make a physician become virtuous, it is within their power to create conditions that encourage the physician to practice certain virtues. With respect to leadership styles, this research finds that v bottom-up, grassroots change efforts can elicit professional virtues, and that culture change in healthcare lies beyond the scope of the medico-legal system


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Graduation Date





Liberman, Aaron


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Health and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Public Affairs








Release Date

December 2012

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Health and Public Affairs, Health and Public Affairs -- Dissertations, Academic