Medical Errors Experienced by 41% of Americans

New Survey Reveals Patient Attitudes on Patient Safety

medical errors in hospitals
A new survey reveals that 41% of Americans have experienced a medical error while receiving healthcare.

According to the national survey, Americans’ Experiences with Medical Errors and Views on Patient Safety, by the IHI/NPSF Lucian Leape Institute and NORC at the University of Chicago:
  • 10% reported personally experiencing a medical error
  • 20% know someone whose care they were involved with experienced a medical error
  • 11% reported having experienced an error both personally and involved in someone else’s care.

Most Errors Attributed to Mistakes in Diagnosing Medical Conditions

The most commonly reported type of errors were those related to diagnoses. Among those who have experienced a medical error, 59% say that the patient had a medical condition that was:
  • not diagnosed
  • diagnosed incorrectly
  • diagnosis was delayed.

Infographic: Betsy Lehman Center Safety Snapshot

Respondents reported that 57% of medical errors occurred in outpatient settings including emergency departments. 34% reported medical errors occurring in inpatient settings.

Of those who experienced a medical error, 73% said the error had long-term or permanent impact on the patient’s physical health, emotional health, financial well-being, or their family relationships, and many say they experienced lasting impacts on multiple aspects of their lives.

Reporting Medical Errors

The survey found that people often don’t report medical errors because they don’t think it will make a difference.
  • 56% of those who did not report the error said they didn’t think it would do any good.
  • 40% said they didn’t know how to report the error.
  • 24% said the error was an honest mistake and no harm was intended so they didn’t report it. 

Contributing Factors in Medical Errors

Some of the most common factors that contributed to the incidence of a medical error include healthcare providers who:
  • don’t pay attention to details
  • aren't listening
  • are poorly trained
  • say there was nothing wrong when there was
  • don't spend enough time with the patient
  • are overworked, stressed, distracted or tired
  • lack of communication among providers
  • don't discuss goals or treatment choices.

Other factors identified include medical care being very complicated and having too many providers involved in care with no clear leader.

The nationwide survey of more than 2,500 adults was conducted by NORC from May 12–June 26, 2017.

For more information including survey fact sheets and to download the full report, visit the Institute for Healthcare Improvement at http://www.ihi.org.

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