New survey finds 21 percent of Americans report personal experience with medical errors

The vast majority of Americans are having positive experiences with the healthcare 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 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 healthcare facility.
  • Most respondents believe that, while healthcare 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.

“The survey results show that Americans recognize that patient safety is a critically important, but complex, issue,” says Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, Chief Clinical and Safety Officer, IHI, and President of the IHI/NPSF Lucian Leape Institute. “The focus on diagnostic errors and the outpatient settings closely parallels other research in this area and confirms that health care improvers need to take a systems approach to safety that encompasses all settings of care, not just hospitals.”

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

IHI has the report.

New survey finds 21 percent of Americans report personal experience with medical...