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Nearly all doctors and nurses say they have personally witnessed a serious medical error, according to a survey recently released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Ninety-five percent of doctors and 89% of nurses say they have witnessed major errors that threatened their patients’ lives. Seventy percent of doctors and nurses, plus other health care providers, say they think fundamental changes to the U.S. health care system are needed in order to improve the quality of care they deliver to patients. For another 11%, the system’s flaws are so large that they say only a complete overhaul will be effective.
The survey involved 600 doctors, 400 nurses, and 200 top-level hospital executives from around the nation. The survey defined quality health care as care that is safe, effective, timely, patient-centered, efficient, and equitable.
Based on those criteria, 58% of those surveyed said the quality of health care in the United States is good or fair, and 2% said it was poor. Only 42% said U.S. health care is very good or excellent.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used the survey results to draw attention to a $21 million initiative it is starting along with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement designed to encourage quality improvement measures by hospitals and physician organizations. The plan will give organizations up to $3 million over two years to foster innovation in the delivery of accurate care, minimizing prescription errors, and cutting unnecessary or excessive care. The grant plan already has received 226 applications and expects to award the money by March 2002.