WBB's Thought Leadership

Medical Errors Affect One in Five U.S. Adults

October 20

In a nationwide survey of more than 2,500 adults, 21% reported having personally experienced a medical error that often resulted in lasting impact on the patient's physical or emotional health, financial well-being, or family relationships.

WBB Take: Medical error is arguably the third leading cause of death in the U.S., trailing only heart disease and cancer (see BMJ figure). One of the primary obstacles is a lack of focus on measuring medical error as a distinct cause of death, and reporting on it in the same way that other causes are reported.
At present, surveillance of medical error as a distinct cause of death is only researched and reported episodically, and “Medical Error” in not a category in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) reports. Until the standard reporting identifies medical error as a distinct cause of death, public awareness and routine surveillance will remain muted.

Source: British Medical Journal
Cited by Matthew Loxton


Excerpt: “The vast majority of Americans are having positive experiences with the health care system, but 21 percent of adults report having personally experienced a medical error, according to a new national survey released today by the IHI/NPSF Lucian Leape Institute and NORC at the University of Chicago. The survey further finds that, when errors do occur, they often have lasting impact on the patient's physical health, emotional health, financial well-being, or family relationships.”


“The nationwide survey of more than 2,500 adults was conducted by NORC from May 12-June 26, 2017. The survey expands on a 1997 survey conducted by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF), which merged with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) earlier this year.”
“Beyond personally experiencing errors, 31 percent of Americans report that someone else whose care they were closely involved with experienced an error. The new survey finds that ambulatory settings are a frequent site of medical errors, and that errors related to diagnosis and patient-provider communications are the most commonly reported.”
“Among the survey's other notable findings:
* Nearly half of those who perceived that an error had occurred brought it to the attention of medical personnel or other staff at the health care facility.
* Most respondents believe that, while health care providers are chiefly responsible for patient safety, patients and their families also have a role to play.
* When asked what caused the medical error they experienced, people identified, on average, at least seven different factors.”

Source: AAAS Eureka Alert


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