Abuse in health care: a concept analysis

Scand J Caring Sci. 2012 Mar;26(1):123-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2011.00918.x. Epub 2011 Aug 25.


Aims and objectives: To analyse the concept of abuse in health care. This analysis also covers how abuse in health care is different from the related concepts of medical error, patient satisfaction and personal identity threat.

Background: Abuse in health care is an emerging concept in need of a clear analysis and definition. At the same time, boundaries to the related concepts are not demarcated.

Design: Concept analysis as developed by Walker and Avant.

Method: The databases Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Medline, and Google Scholar were used to obtain articles published between 1997 and 2009. A total of eleven articles are referred to on abuse in health care, four on medical error, six on patient satisfaction and three on personal identity threat.

Results: Abuse in health care is defined by patients' subjective experiences of encounters with the health care system, characterized by devoid of care, where patients suffer and feel they lose their value as human beings. The events are most often unintended. We also found differences with the aforementioned related concepts: medical error does not share the patients' perspective, and patient satisfaction does not offer room for patients' abusive experiences. The concept of personal identity threat shares all attributes with abuse in health care, but it lacks an antecedent that signifies the social structures underlying the phenomenon.

Conclusions: Abuse in health care covers a phenomenon that has severe consequences but is invisible if seen from a medical error or patient satisfaction perspective.

MeSH terms

  • Concept Formation
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors
  • Patient Safety*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Professional Misconduct
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Violence*