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Experts Call for National Reporting of Medical Errors to Rebuild Trust

November 16, 2023

More than 20 million Americans lose trust in health care annually due to mistakes and other adverse events in their medical care, according to survey data. In a new article, two experts call for a national registry of adverse events to better prepare Americans for their health care experiences, thereby rebuilding trust in hospitals and health care staff involved in these events.

The recommendation for a registry was issued as part of a report on trust in health care and science, Time to Rebuild, published by The Hastings Center.

The article, When Mistakes Multiply: How Inadequate Responses to Medical Mishaps Erode Trust in American Medicine, was authored by Mark Schlesinger of the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) and Rachel Grob of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School.

“Schlesinger and Grob outline a very practical way to rebuild some trust in medicine—which is particularly at risk after bad experiences,” said Lauren Taylor, assistant professor at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine and editor of the report.

The authors call for regular surveys that ask Americans about experiences involving diagnostic and treatment problems. They note that effective strategies for nationwide reporting of adverse events have been implemented in numerous other countries and could be readily adopted in the United States. Yet current programs that could help to recover trust after medical errors are operating in only a small portion of the over 5,100 hospitals in the U.S.

“By failing to inform Americans about the true prevalence of patient safety risks, we leave them vulnerable to becoming disillusioned and mistrustful when they experience an adverse event," said Schlesinger, a professor of public health (health policy) at YSPH. "And when their trust is violated in this manner, mistrust persists long after the event, weakening their future trust in medical care and their other clinicians."

The special report published by The Hastings Center explores the causes of the decline in trust in health and science and proposes pathways to rebuild trust in a series of articles.

The report was edited by Taylor, Gregory E. Kaebnick of The Hastings Center, and Mildred Z. Solomon, president emerita of The Hasting Center.

The special report is the product of a collaboration between The Hastings Center and the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation Building Trust initiative, with support from The Gil Omenn and Martha Darling Fund for Trusted and Trustworthy Scientific Innovation and by the ABIM Foundation.

Submitted by Colin Poitras on November 16, 2023