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Survey Shows How Common Medical Errors Still Are in the U.S.

A new survey finds that 21 percent of U.S. adults report having personally experienced a…

  • November 12, 2017

A new survey finds that 21 percent of U.S. adults report having personally experienced a medical error.

The survey, released by the IHI/NPSF Lucian Leaped Institute and NORC at the University of Chicago, 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. It 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.

Few Americans worry about patient safety personally. More than 8 in 10 believe that patient safety is the responsibility of health care providers, hospital leaders and administrators, as well as family members and patients.

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