Healthcare News & Insights

Health IT will reduce dangerous medical errors, most patients say

Nearly a third of Americans have experienced medical errors at least once in their lifetimes. The good news: Most believe that health IT will help minimize those threats to patient safety. 

Most patients are worried about their healthcare providers making errors that could threaten their safety or their finances, according to a recent survey from Wolters Kluwer Health.

Among the 1,000 U.S. consumers polled, 30% have experienced a medical mistake affecting either themselves or a friend or family member. Often, that meant being given the wrong medication, dosage or treatment. In addition, 21% said that they or a friend or relative has been misdiagnosed by a doctor.

Aside from those errors, patients have also experienced administrative problems. For example, 45% have gotten an incorrect bill from a hospital.

Regardless of whether or not they’ve experienced an error themselves, 73% of patients are concerned about medical errors, with 45% expressing significant distress.

Respondents believe that most medical errors are caused by:

  • Miscommunication among hospital staff (35%)
  • Doctors and nurses being in a hurry (26%)
  • Doctors and nurses being fatigued (14%), and
  • Staffing shortages in hospitals (12%).

Despite the concerns, patients are confident that there are ways to prevent medical mistakes — especially through the greater use of healthcare technology. The majority (68%) of respondents believe errors will decrease as the medical field adopts new health IT tools.

Many of those causes cited by patients can be corrected with technology, which can help improve the speed and accuracy of communication and allow organizations to increase their efficiency and get more done with fewer people on staff.

Another way technology is helping cut down on dangerous errors that threaten patient safety is through the use of clinical decision support tools, says Wolters Kluwer. In addition to helping doctors make better and faster decisions, they also help improve communication among all of the parties involved in a patient’s care.

Beyond hoping for more health IT adoption, patients are also doing their part to help prevent errors in their own care, with 84% having taken some type of action on their own. Most often, that means taking steps such as:

  • Doing more of their own research after a diagnosis (66%)
  • Obtaining second opinions regarding treatment plans and prescriptions (56%), and
  • Writing down instructions for their doctors and nurses (36%).

As the survey results show, if patients are concerned about medical errors, one thing doctors can do to allay fears and increase satisfaction is explain what technology is being implemented and how it well help improve patient safety.

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