Medical mistakes often a problem with communication, patients’ survey shows

A doctor checking the pulse of a patient on an infusion
A doctor checking the pulse of a patient on an infusion

A survey by the Dutch patients’ association Patientenfederatie has found that one in five mainly elderly people who visited a hospital in the past two years experienced either a mistake or a near mistake.

In particular, wrong diagnoses and mistakes with prescriptions for medicines were common, the patients’ rights group said.

In total, 7,800 people took part in the survey and they had an average age of 67. Just 21% were under the age of 60 and half of those taking part had a college or university degree.

Some 8% of participants said that something almost went wrong, while 13% experienced some form of mistake.  One fifth of those who experienced a medical error said they had suffered problems with a physical injury afterwards.

The mistakes were largely due to communication problems between both care professionals and care provider and patient, the Patientenfederatie said.

‘People need to be able to trust that they are in safe hands in hospital,’ said director Diandra Veldman. ‘That is why it is good to know what mistakes are being made.’

In particular, survey participants said healthcare providers should report it if something goes wrong. ‘It is about learning from mistakes,’ Veldman said. ‘This is the only way we can improve hospital care, which is generally good.’

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