66% of consumers talk to surgeons to reduce risk

Survey targets views on medical errors

On the fifth anniversary of the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report on the high number of medical errors in this country, 66% of consumers surveyed said that they have talked to a surgeon about details of a proposed surgery to reduce the risk of experiencing a medical error when seeking treatment.

Consumers said the discussions included items such as exactly what the surgeon will do, how long it will take, and the recovery process.

The consumer survey was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Harvard School of Public Health. The survey found that 35% of people said they have seen information comparing the quality of health plans, hospitals, or doctors in the past year, up from 27% in 2000.

Some 19% of all Americans said they have used comparative quality information about health plans, hospitals, or other providers to make decisions about their care, up from 12% in 2000. More specifically, 14% of consumers said they have used quality information to choose health plans, 8% to choose hospitals, and 6% to choose doctors.

Consumers said that information on how many times a hospital has performed a particular surgery or test (65%) and information on how many patients die after having surgery (57%) tells them "a lot."

The survey found that 40% of respondents believe the quality of health care has gotten worse in the past five years, while 17% say it has gotten better and 38% think it has stayed the same. Nearly half of U.S. residents (48%) said they are concerned about the safety of the medical care that they and their families receive, and 55% said they are dissatisfied with the quality of U.S. health care, up from 44% who gave that opinion in a survey conducted four years ago.

Resource

To view a summary of the survey report, go to the web site of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (www.kff.org). Under "New and Noteworthy," click on "National Survey on Consumers’ Experiences with Patient Safety and Quality Information."