The Harvard School of Public Health published an article based on a study which provided insight on how the citizens of Massachusetts perceive and feel about medical error in this state.
The study was commissioned by the Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety and Medical Error Reduction.
Researchers conducted a statewide telephone public opinion poll of 1,224 Massachusetts adults.
The study found that 23% of respondents had previously been personally involved in a situation where they or loved one were the victim of a preventable medical error. Roughly half of those respondents reported that the medical error resulted in serious health consequences.
The most common form of medical error reported involved misdiagnosis of a problem or condition. 54% of those involved in a medical error had reported the error to a health professional when the error occurred. Usually people chose to report the error in hopes of preventing the error happening to someone else. Conversely, people usually tended not to report the error because they felt that reporting it would not do any good.
The study also found that the majority of people surveyed did not seek information about patient safety when selecting a hospital or physician. 35% of the respondents felt that medical errors are a serious problem in Massachusetts. However there was no consensus among those surveyed regarding whether or not medical errors have been increasing or decreasing over the past 5 years.
There was overwhelming support for greater transparency with regard to medical errors. More than 90% of respondents felt that hospitals, doctors and nursing homes should be required to report medical errors to the state and tell patients when a medical is made. In addition, 94% of respondents felt that the public should be able to find out the number and type of medical error made by hospitals and doctors.
After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that medical errors are a problem and that more public discussion and media attention will be necessary before changes in both transparency and patient safety precautions will occur.
Massachusetts is not the only state where medical errors occur at a fairly alarming rate.