Objective: (i) To compare public perceptions of the frequency, responsibility, causes and solutions for preventable medical errors for persons who report and do not report having experienced a preventable medical error while receiving healthcare services in Alberta, Canada. (ii) To describe public opinion about confidentiality and disclosure of preventable medical error. (iii) To examine the relationship between reporting preventable medical error and perceived quality of the healthcare system.
Methods: Population-based telephone survey. Households selected by random digit dialing and individual in household selected by most recent birthday. Province of Alberta, Canada. Representative sample of adult Albertans (N = 1500). Public perceptions of the frequency, responsibility, causes and solutions for preventable medical error; opinions about confidentiality and disclosure; perceived quality of the healthcare system.
Results: Five hundred and fifty-nine (37.3%; 95% CI 34.8-39.8%) of 1500 respondents reported that they or a family member had ever experienced a preventable medical error while receiving health care in Alberta, Canada. Respondents who reported a preventable medical error were more likely to believe that preventable medical errors occur with greater frequency, were less likely to think that their doctor would tell them if a preventable medical error was made in their care, and tended to rate the quality of the healthcare system less favourably.
Conclusion: This paper provides healthcare managers and policymakers with insight into the public's perceptions of preventable medical error and may facilitate the development of strategies to improve patient safety, public confidence and public satisfaction with the healthcare system.