Survey Reveals Striking Frequency of Medical Mistakes

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A recent Wolters Kluwer Health survey found that nearly one in every three Americans say they or a family member or friend have been the victim of a medical mistake. In the survey, “medical mistake” is defined as being given incorrect treatment or the wrong medication or dosage. More than one in five respondents said that they have been misdiagnosed by their doctor, and 45 percent said that they have received an incorrect bill from their healthcare provider.

Sadly, these statistics show that the standard of care being provided to patients is not nearly as good as it should be.

No matter if they reported a medical mistake or not, almost three-quarters of respondents expressed concern about medical errors, and 45 percent said they were “very concerned”. Women expressed more concern (76 percent) than men did (68 percent). Generally speaking, older people were more likely to be concerned with the quality of their medical care.

Respondents were asked why they think most medical mistakes happen, with 35 percent of Americans citing miscommunication among hospital staff as the primary reason. Other common reasons mentioned included doctors and nurses being in a rush, tired staff and hospitals having nursing shortages.

The survey revealed that 84 percent of Americans have taken it upon themselves to try and reduce the chance of errors happening in the course of their own healthcare. The most common effort taken is patients doing research to validate a physician’s diagnosis or treatment plan. Women are more likely than men to take this step. In addition, over half of the survey respondents had sought a second opinion on a diagnosis or treatment plan.

The survey polled 1,000 U.S. consumers age 18 and older. Questions in the survey focused on learning about consumer experiences with medical mistakes, perceptions on why the mistakes happen and patient actions taken to prevent errors at point of care.

Source: Equities, “Survey: Nearly One in Three Americans Report Experiencing Medical Mistakes, Either Themselves or Among Family and Friends,” Aug. 15, 2012.

To learn more about the rights of people who have been harmed by medical errors in Tennessee, please visit our medical malpractice page.