1 in 4 seriously ill patients report critical medical error

Nearly one in four seriously ill patients said they have experienced a serious medical error, including 14 percent who said the error or most recent error happened at a hospital and 7 percent who said it happened at a physician's office or clinic, a recent survey found.

This survey was conducted for the Commonwealth Fund, The New York Times and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston by an independent research firm. Interviews were conducted via telephone during July and August among a nationally representative sample of 1,495 adults age 18 or older. The respondents represent seriously ill adults nationally.

The survey defines seriously ill U.S. adults in two ways:

  • Those who themselves in the last three years have had a serious illness or medical condition that required several hospital visits and visits to more than one physician.
  • If the respondent has not had this experience themselves, those who have a close family member not available to be interviewed who have had this kind of experience in the last three years.

Three other survey findings:

1. Hospital care problems that seriously ill patients most often reported were staff not being responsive to their needs (22 percent) and receiving conflicting information from different health professionals (18 percent).

2. About one in five seriously ill patients (21 percent) would not recommend their hospital to another patient with the same medical condition.

3. When looking at the care experiences patients received from several physicians, a significantly small number of seriously ill patients reported significant problems. Twenty-nine percent said they were sent for duplicate tests or diagnostic procedures by different physicians and 23 percent said they had to wait too long for treatments, tests and appointments. About one in four (23 percent) also said getting conflicting recommendations from different health professionals was a problem.

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