A new survey, conducted by Wolters Kluwer Health, revealed that almost a third of Americans reported experiencing (or having a friend or family member experience) a medical error, including wrong treatment, wrong medication, wrong dosage, etc. The survey, completed in July 2012, consisted of telephone interviews with U.S. consumers asking them about their experiences and concerns about medical errors. More than 70% of respondents reported being very concerned or somewhat concerned about medical mistakes, and more than 20% reported having been misdiagnosed by a clinician.

The survey also revealed that Americans are taking steps to help minimize mistakes. Over 8 in 10 consumers have taken actions to reduce errors. For example, 66% of survey respondents had done some research on their own to validate a diagnosis or treatment plan. More than half (56%) sought a second opinion. Other steps taken to prevent medical errors included writing information down for the doctor or nurse, delaying procedures until a day when a clinician might be more rested or focused, and, surprisingly, asking a clinician or nurse to wash their hands (18% of respondents admitted having to ask). Interestingly, women were always more likely than men to do research, get a second option, and all other actions involved with reducing errors. The survey also showed that consumers feel that the biggest causes of medical mistakes are miscommunication among hospital staff (35%), clinicians or nurses being in a hurry (26%), doctors or nurses being fatigued (14%), and staffing shortages in hospitals (12%).

On a positive note, survey respondents expressed confidence in technology being able to reduce medical errors. Of those surveyed, 68% agreed that technology has had a positive impact in reducing the chance for medical mistakes.