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Does your idea of a medical error match your patient's? Possibly not. In a recent study of more than 1,600 patients in 12 midwestern hospitals, researcher Thomas E. Burroughs, PhD, found that "patients and clinicians can have different views of the things that constitute a medical error. For patients, clear communication and responsiveness are particularly important. If these are lacking, patients may view this as a medical error."

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Most patients in the study reported feeling a high level of medical safety, but 39% said they were concerned about at least one medical error during their hospitalization. Those most likely to report concerns included parents of pediatric patients, middle-aged adults, and African-Americans. Patients receiving care in small rural hospitals reported the fewest concerns.


Researchers stress that these "concerns" aren't necessarily actual errors. They say their findings indicate the need for health care providers to find out what patients mean when they talk about errors and mistakes, especially if patient participation is part of a facility's error-prevention program.


The study was published in the January 2007 issue of the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.




Study indicates that patients' broad definition of medical "errors" can undermine satisfaction with care, Joint Commission Resources,