Patients urged to guard against care errors

According to research by the Harvard School of Public Health, about 34 percent of patients say they or their families have been affected by a medical error. For people with chronic illnesses, the percentage rises to a frightening 50 percent. This may be, in part, because doctors aren't spending a lot of time listening to patients, interrupting after about 23 seconds, studies suggest. Realistically, it also comes from the inevitable ongoing process errors that occur during the routine provision of care--including "never" errors like wrong-site surgery.

For these reasons, experts are increasingly suggesting that patients stay on guard in medical settings, and in particular, play a larger role in medical safety in hospitals. To get patients to do this, it will take a cultural change, as patients typically assume that they should blindly follow the orders of doctors and medical personnel, says Dennis O'Leary, JCAHO's president. To promote patient participation in hospital safety, JCAHO has launched a new program called "Speak Up" to encourage patients to report safety concerns. Patient advocates are also placing an emphasis on getting family members to keep their eyes open for care errors.

For more information on the study:
- read this USAToday piece