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Study indicates patient's broad definition of 'errors' can undermine satisfaction

Physician Practice Advisor, December 20, 2006

Patient opinion of what constitutes a medical error is much broader than traditional clinical definitions, and includes communication problems, long response times, and falls, according to a study released by The Joint Commission on Accredidation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). The study examined the opinions of more than 1,600 patients at 12 midwestern hospitals, according to a JCAHO release.

The study found a strong link between a patient's concerns about medical errors and his or her satisfaction with the entire healthcare experience. A single patient concern about a medical error was tied to a significantly reduced likelihood to return to the same healthcare facility for care, according to the release.

"The study underscores that patients and clinicians can have different views of the things that constitute a medical error," said Thomas E. Burroughs, one of the study's authors, in a statement. "For patients, clear communication and responsiveness are particularly important. If these are lacking, patients may view this as a medical error. It is important that clinicians recognize these differences, and the importance of communication and responsiveness."

Click here to read the full JCAHO release.