Patients say technology will help prevent medical errors

Despite a healthy concern about medical errors, 68 percent of respondents to a new Wolters Kluwer Health survey believe technology will help reduce mistakes in healthcare.

In the poll of 1,000 Americans age 18 or older, 73 percent say they are concerned about medical errors, with 45 percent "very concerned." Women (76 percent) expressed more concern than men (68 percent), as did respondents age 35-54 (76 percent) versus those who are younger (66 percent). 

And in fact, 30 percent say they or a family member has experienced a medical mistake such as being given the wrong medication, dose or treatment. More than one in five reports being misdiagnosed by a doctor and nearly half (45 percent) report receiving an incorrect bill.  

When asked why such errors occur, 35 percent cite miscommunication among hospital staff, followed by doctors and nurses being in a hurry (26 percent), staff being fatigued (14 percent) and hospitals experiencing staffing shortages (12 percent).

Eighty-four percent also report taking action to prevent such errors. Women (87 percent) are more likely than men (81 percent) to have done so. The most common action was doing research on their own to validate a doctor's diagnosis or treatment plan (66 percent), followed by getting a second opinion (56 percent) and more than a third (36 percent) have written down instructions for their doctor or nurse. Nearly one in five (19 percent) has delayed a procedure for a day when the doctor may be more focused or rested, such as not scheduling on the weekends or late in the week.

More than 200,000 patients die each year from preventable medical mistakes and infections in hospitals, Leapfrog Group president and CEO Leah Binder said in a New York Daily News column earlier this month.  

Yet hospitals reported only 1 percent of the adverse and temporary harm events to Medicare beneficiaries, according to a report last month by the Office of the Inspector General. It attributed the low levels of reporting, however, to staff not knowing which events they were required to report.

New tools are coming out, though, to help reduce errors, such as an app that records patient-physician communications that can be played back to make sure both sides are clear about the treatment plan. And Children's Hospital of Colorado found that adding a patient photo to EHRs can help prevent computerized physician order entry errors.

To learn more:
- read the survey (.pdf)
- here's the summary

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