Over 40% of Americans have experience with medical errors


More than 40% of adults have either experienced a medical error or been involved in the care of someone who did, according to a recent national survey.

Specifically, 21% of American adults said that they have personally experienced a medical error and 31% said that they have been involved in the care of another person who experienced an error. The combined total, which includes some overlap, was 41% in the survey conducted by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)/National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) and National Opinion Research Center (NORC), a nonpartisan research institution at the University of Chicago, .

Medical errors were defined for respondents as “mistakes [that] sometimes result in no harm, while other times they may result in additional or prolonged treatment, emotional distress, disability, or death,” investigators at IHI/NPSF and NORC said in their report.

A misdiagnosed medical problem was the most common type of medical error, reported by 59% of those with error experience. The next most common type of error was a mistake during a test, surgery, or treatment, which was mentioned by 46% of those with error experience, followed by a diagnosis that didn’t make sense (42%), lack of respect (39%), and incorrect instructions about follow-up care (29%), the IHI/HPSF and NORC report indicated.

Feelings of disrespect were more common among younger respondents: 46% of those aged 18-44 years said they were not treated with respect by a health care provider, compared with 34% of those aged 45 years and older. No differences in disrespect were seen with regard to socioeconomic status, health literacy, or English language proficiency. Those who spoke a language other than English at home, however, were more than twice as likely to get the wrong medication from a physician (34%) than were those who did not (15%), the report showed.

The survey, which had a sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, was conducted between May 12, 2017, and June 26, 2017, and involved 2,536 respondents. It was conducted with support from Medtronic.

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