Patients can help prevent medical errors


A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. A medical error might include an inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis or treatment of a disease, injury, syndrome, behavior, infection or other ailment.

NORC Report

According to a recent survey report of 2,500 adults from the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago (NORC), 21 percent reported personally experiencing a medical error. Of those, 31 percent reported knowing someone affected by a medical error. Fifty-nine percent reported errors involving misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. Thirty-nine percent reported a medical error due to lack of respect. Twenty-nine percent received incorrect follow-up instructions. Twenty-eight percent reported receiving incorrect medication dosage. Twenty-seven percent reported receiving treatments that were not necessary. Some reported errors related to providers’ lack of attention to detail during the patient visit, being stressed and being providers. Some reported a lack of clear communication skills and receiving unclear or unnecessary treatment directions from their providers.

Ninety-four percent reported physicians, nurses and other providers, and 89 percent said hospital leaders and administrators, share responsibility for errors. In addition, family members and patients themselves also share responsibility. The majority of the reported errors occurred in the ambulatory settings. Examples of concerns are waiting too long in the waiting room, communication, literacy issues, disrespect and attention to the patient.

Some reported the belief that harm to patients included too many treatment plans or too many medications. See the report at www. ORC_IHI_NPSF/medical errors.

Individual Patient Communication

This report carefully emphasizes the importance of patient communication. It is important for patients to state clearly their concerns and expectations to their provider. Sometimes it is a good idea to make a list of concerns that you want to address. Make a duplicate and give one to the provider and keep one for you. Record the response in order one at a time from your provider on a separate document. Do the same regarding your medications. Make a list — name, strength, directions and clearly state your response to the medication. Provide correct information to your provider at all times. There is an old saying, ”Good patients make good doctors.”

Keith Miller, Pharm.D.

Casa Grande

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