The Heartland Health Research Institute published in December 2017 the results of its Iowa Patient Safety Study that consisted of approximately 115 questions asked of randomly-selected Iowans about their views and experiences while interacting with Iowa healthcare providers. The study, entitled “Iowans’ Views On Medical Errors,” involved 1,010 Iowans who took part in the study from May 6 to June 11, 2017. The methodology included telephone-based data collection from 451 interviews on telephone numbers called via random digit dialing of landlines with Iowa’s area codes and an addition 559 interviews completed using cell phone numbers.
The interviewers advised the study participants that the definition of “medical errors” was: “Sometimes when people receive medical care, mistakes are made. These mistakes sometimes result in no harm; sometimes they may result in additional or prolonged treatment, disability or death. These types of mistakes are called medical errors.”
The report stated: “The results of this study show during the past five years, nearly one in five Iowa adults (18.8 percent) report they have personally been involved in a medical error or a medical error has occurred in the care of someone close to them. Additionally, almost two-thirds of those experiencing medical errors say the health consequences were ‘serious,’ while about one-third report having ‘serious’ financial consequences. A substantial proportion of patients in Iowa experienced these medical errors while they were hospitalized.”
Over the past five years, 62.4% of Iowans have received either in-patient or out-patient medical care in an Iowa hospital. Slightly more males (59.9%) reported that medical errors occurred in the hospital compared to females (57.3%). A greater proportion of females (33.1%) reported medical errors occurred in the doctor’s office compared to males (25%).
The most common medical errors reported by Iowans, in descending order, involved mistakes made in testing, surgery or treatment (60.2%), a misdiagnosis (55.1%), given the wrong test, surgery, or treatment (43.9%), given an incorrect medication (i.e., the wrong dose) (37.3%), given wrong or unclear instructions about follow-up care (31.7%), received the wrong prescription from the doctor (19.9%), got an infection as a result of a test, surgery, or treatment (19.1%), test results were lost or did not receive them (17.8%), fell down in the hospital/nursing home (8.8%), and got a bed sore in the hospital/nursing home (6.2%).
59.9% of Iowans who reported experiencing medical errors stated that they suffered serious health consequences as a result; 22.9% reported minor health consequences; and, 17.2% reported no health consequences as a result of medical errors that they experienced.
48.1% of Iowans reported that medical errors were not a problem in Iowa. Younger Iowans believed that there are fewer medical errors now than five years ago (60.6%) but older Iowans were about equally-split with regard to whether there are more or fewer medical errors now.
54.3% of Iowans believe that at least three-quarters of all medical errors could be prevented, while 1.4% said that no medical errors can be prevented.
59.5% of Iowans who experienced a medical error reported that no one informed them that a medical error had occurred.
88.5% of Iowans “Strongly Agree” that providers should be required to tell patients of any medical error made in their treatment.
44.7% of Iowans with a medical error history are more likely to believe their personal doctor would not reveal the error to them; 61.2% of Iowans who have not experienced a medical error believe that their personal doctor would tell them if a medical error occurred.
For those who experienced a medical error in the last five years, 61.5% reported the error, while 32.9% did not (40.5% stated that they didn’t know how to report the medical error). Of those medical errors that were reported, 78.8% were reported to the medical staff where the error occurred. The main reason given for reporting the medical error was to prevent the same error from happening to someone else (88.9%), and only 24.6% reported the medical error because they wanted to receive compensation for the harm caused by the error. The main reason that a medical error was not reported was because they did not think it would do any good (65.7%).
The report summarized its findings as follows: “Nearly one-fifth of Iowans (18.8 percent) report experiencing a medical error in the past five years, with one-third of the errors occurring in their own care, and another 57 percent in the care of a person close to the survey respondent. By comparison, on a national basis, a recent report indicated that 23 percent of Americans reported experiencing a medical error during the past five years, either personally, or where an error occurred in someone else’s care. This national report suggests that improvements have been made in some areas of patient safety in the past 20 years, but recent results suggest too many medical errors continue to persist.
“About six in 10 of Iowan-reported errors occurred in hospitals. The most common type of medical error cited by Iowans were mistakes made during a test, surgery or treatment. Having a medical problem misdiagnosed was also very prominent, along with receiving the wrong test, surgery or treatment.
“When experiencing a medical error, six in 10 Iowans believe a serious health consequence resulted, while about one-quarter indicated minor health consequences were experienced. About one-third reported they experienced serious financial consequences from the medical mishap and over one-quarter reported minor financial consequences. This demonstrates that medical errors can adversely impact patients both physically and financially.”
If you or a family member may be the victim of medical malpractice committed by a doctor, a hospital, or other medical provider in Iowa or elsewhere in the United States, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice lawyer in Iowa or in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your family member in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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