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Associations Between Communication Climate and the Frequency of Medical Error Reporting Among Pharmacists Within an Inpatient Setting

Patterson, Mark E. PhD, MPH; Pace, Heather A. PharmD; Fincham, Jack E. PhD, RPh

doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e318281edcb
Original Articles

Objective Although error-reporting systems enable hospitals to accurately track safety climate through the identification of adverse events, these systems may be underused within a work climate of poor communication. The objective of this analysis is to identify the extent to which perceived communication climate among hospital pharmacists impacts medical error reporting rates.

Methods This cross-sectional study used survey responses from more than 5000 pharmacists responding to the 2010 Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture (HSOPSC). Two composite scores were constructed for “communication openness” and “feedback and about error,” respectively. Error reporting frequency was defined from the survey question, “In the past 12 months, how many event reports have you filled out and submitted?” Multivariable logistic regressions were used to estimate the likelihood of medical error reporting conditional upon communication openness or feedback levels, controlling for pharmacist years of experience, hospital geographic region, and ownership status.

Results Pharmacists with higher communication openness scores compared with lower scores were 40% more likely to have filed or submitted a medical error report in the past 12 months (OR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1–1.7; P = 0.004). In contrast, pharmacists with higher communication feedback scores were not any more likely than those with lower scores to have filed or submitted a medical report in the past 12 months (OR, 1.0; 95% CI, 0.8–1.3; P = 0.97).

Conclusions Hospital work climates that encourage pharmacists to freely communicate about problems related to patient safety is conducive to medical error reporting. The presence of feedback infrastructures about error may not be sufficient to induce error-reporting behavior.

From the Division of Pharmacy Practice and Administration University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy Kansas City, Missouri

Correspondence: Mark E. Patterson, Ph.D., M.P.H., Division of Pharmacy Practice and Administration University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy 4245 Health Sciences Building 2464 Charlotte Street Kansas City, MO (e-mail:

Conflicts of interest and sources of funding: Dr. Mark Patterson is currently receiving a grant from the University of Missouri Research Board (UMRB). For the remaining authors, no conflicts of interest or sources of funding were reported.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins