Survey: Nearly One in Three Americans Report Experiencing Medical Mistakes, Either Themselves or Among Family and Friends

Wolters Kluwer Health Survey Shows High Consumer Confidence that Technology Adoption Will Reduce Medical Errors

Aug 15, 2012, 09:00 ET from Wolters Kluwer Health

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- According to a new Wolters Kluwer Health survey, nearly one third of Americans, 30 percent, report that either they or a family member or friend have experienced a medical mistake. Medical mistakes include being given the wrong medication, dosage or treatment. Beyond these types of errors, more than one in five Americans report having been misdiagnosed by their doctor and nearly half, 45 percent, report having received an incorrect bill from their healthcare provider.

Regardless of whether they report having experienced a medical mistake, nearly three quarters of Americans, 73 percent, say they are concerned about medical errors and nearly half, 45 percent, report being "very concerned" about such errors. Women (76 percent) expressed concern on a greater scale than men (68 percent), as did Americans aged 35-54 (76 percent) versus those who are younger (66 percent). 

Despite high levels of concern about medical mistakes, Americans have confidence in technology to help reduce mistakes. The majority, 68 percent, believe that as the medical field continues to adopt new technologies, medical errors should decrease.

The recent Wolters Kluwer Health survey was conducted by IPSOS among 1,000 U.S. consumers ages 18 and older. Survey questions focused on uncovering consumer experiences with medical mistakes, consumer perceptions on why mistakes occur and patient habits to help prevent errors at the point of care.

When asked why they believe most medical mistakes occur, more than one third of Americans (35 percent) cite miscommunication among hospital staff as the top reason. The next most common reasons cited include doctors and nurses being in a hurry (26 percent), staff being fatigued (14 percent) and hospitals experiencing staffing shortages (12 percent).

Survey results also reveal that the vast majority of Americans, 84 percent, have taken some type of action as a patient to help reduce the possibility of errors when it comes to their own healthcare. The most common action is doing research on their own to validate a doctor's diagnosis or treatment plan (66 percent). This practice is more common among women (71 percent) versus men (60 percent). More than half, 56 percent, of consumers have gotten a second opinion on a diagnosis or treatment plan and more than a third, 36 percent, have written down instructions for their doctor or nurse.

"What is clear from survey findings is that there is a high level of concern among American consumers about medical mistakes, which could impact the doctor-patient relationship as well as how consumers approach their own healthcare," said Dr. Linda Peitzman, Chief Medical Officer, Wolters Kluwer Health. "Clinical decision support tools can play a significant role in reducing instances of medical errors and improving communication among parties involved in a patient's care. Studies have shown that hospitals that adopt certain clinical decision support systems experience shorter hospital lengths of stay, reduced mortality rates and overall improvements in quality of care."

Among other findings from the survey:

  • Nearly one in five, 19 percent, of Americans have delayed having a procedure for a day when the doctor may be more focused or rested (i.e. not scheduling on the weekends or late in the week)
  • Eighteen percent have asked a doctor/nurse to wash their hands
  • Women (87%) are more likely than men (81%) to have made an effort to minimize medical mistakes
  • More than half of adults (55%) between the ages of 35 and 54 report that they have received an incorrect healthcare bill

For more information on the survey and to download an executive summary of survey findings, visit

Survey methodology
The Wolters Kluwer Health survey was a blind telephone Omnibus survey conducted by IPSOS of 1,000 consumers in the U.S. ages 18 and older. Interviews were completed in July 2012. Data were weighted to ensure the sample's regional and age/gender composition reflects that of the actual U.S. population according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  

About Wolters Kluwer Health
Wolters Kluwer Health (Philadelphia, PA) is a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the healthcare industry. Serving more than 150 countries and territories worldwide, Wolters Kluwer Health's customers include professionals, institutions and students in medicine, nursing, allied health and pharmacy. Major brands include Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Ovid®, UpToDate®, Medi-Span®, Facts & Comparisons®, Pharmacy OneSource®, Lexicomp® and ProVation® Medical.

Wolters Kluwer Health is part of Wolters Kluwer, a market-leading global information services company. Wolters Kluwer has 2011 annual revenues of €3.4 billion ($4.7 billion), employs approximately 19,000 people worldwide, and maintains operations in over 40 countries across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and Latin America.

SOURCE Wolters Kluwer Health