"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 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.