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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 03/30/04
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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UC Research Looks at Prevalence of Medical Errors in Outpatient Visits

A study by researchers from the UC Medical Center concludes that family physicians identify errors and preventable adverse events frequently during patient visits.  An article, titled "The Identification of Medical Errors by Family Physicians During Outpatient Visits," details the findings and can be found in the March 30 issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

"Previous studies have told us that medical errors and adverse events are important factors in the health outcomes of hospitalized patients," said Nancy Elder, MD, associate professor in the UC Department of Family Medicine.  "The majority of medical care in the U.S. however, occurs in outpatient primary care settings.  It is important to identify errors and determine their effects in these outpatient settings."

The group of UC researchers surveyed 15 Cincinnati-area family physicians.  The physicians were asked to identify medical errors during visits with patients.  The physicians surveyed identified medical errors and preventable adverse events in 23.6 percent of the 351 outpatient encounters during the study. 

The study found variation in how some error categories are interpreted and how harm is defined.  Office administration errors were most frequently noted.  Harm was felt to have occurred in 24 percent of the identified errors, and was potential in another 70 percent.  While most harm was felt to be minor, there was disagreement as to whether to include emotional discomfort and wasted time as a patient harm.

The study, led by Dr. Elder, was co-authored by Mary Beth Vonder Meulen, RN, CCRC, principal research assistant, UC Department of Family Medicine; and Amy Cassedy, PhD, adjunct assistant professor, UC Department of Sociology.

To view the entire article, visit

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