How Many Specialists Report Medical Errors?

In national survey, 45 percent of specialists reported that a medical error had occurred in their practice in the past six months. Of the reported errors, which included medication errors, testing errors, surgical planning errors and judgment errors, 37 percent caused major injury or harm, and 4 percent were fatal. Both adults and children were affected, and younger physicians were more likely than physicians over age 50 to report errors (approximately 60 percent versus 40 percent). Other errors included:

  • Equipment errors: equipment not available or improperly assembled, equipment failure (9.4 percent)
  • Errors in post-operative care (8.5 percent)
  • Wrong site surgery: wrong patient, wrong organ, or wrong side (6 percent)
  • Drug errors during surgery (4 percent)
  • Communication errors (4 percent)

Researchers say that the number of doctors reporting medical errors--45 percent--is an underestimate. They suggest that doctors may not be trained to recognize errors, and may tend to recall errors that have serious consequences but overlook minor ones. For more on the state of medical errors in the United States, I encourage you to read this article: Modern Health Care System is the Leading Cause of Death.

Laryngoscope August 2004;114(8):1322-1335

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