U.S. Patients Report Higher Incidence of Medical Errors Than Those in Other Nations, Study Finds
More U.S. patients with medical conditions reported experiencing medical errors over the past two years than did patients in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, according to a study published in the current issue of Health Affairs, the Miami Herald reports. The study, conducted by Harvard School of Public Health researchers and funded by the Commonwealth Fund, surveyed at least 750 adults with medical conditions in each of the five countries and found that 28% of U.S. adults experienced a medical error over the past two years, while the U.K. had the lowest incidence at 18%. In total, one-fourth of patients with existing conditions reported errors, and in all countries the incidence of medical errors nearly doubled among patients who had received care from more than two physicians (Dorschner, Miami Herald, 5/6). Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard, and colleagues used the 2002 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Sicker Adults to question patients. Other findings include the following:
- U.S. respondents cited cost and inadequate coverage as the two biggest problems in the health care system.
- Respondents from other nations cited shortages, wait times and inadequate government funds as major problems in their health systems.
- One in five U.S. and Canadian participants said they had undergone duplicate tests or procedures ordered by different providers.
- Two-thirds of respondents said they rely on prescription medications on a daily basis, and U.S. adults were more likely to take four or more prescriptions on a regular basis.
- About 10% of respondents reported receiving the wrong medication at least once over the past two years.
- About 18% of respondents in all nations except the U.K. reported that a medical error had caused a serious health problem within the past two years.
A second study published in Health Affairs finds that U.S. residents pay more for health care than residents of 29 other industrialized nations but receive fewer physician appointments and shorter hospital stays, the Baltimore Sun reports. Gerard Anderson, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues used data collected by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to analyze 30 nations. Health spending per capita in the United States in 2000 was $4,631 -- 44% higher than Switzerland, the nation with the second-highest spending rate (Baltimore Sun, 5/6). The researchers conclude that the differential results from the fact that U.S. health care goods and services are much more expensive than those of other countries (Anderson et al., Health Affairs, May/June 2003). The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.