Rural community members' perceptions of harm from medical mistakes: A High Plains Research Network (HPRN) study

Rebecca F. Van Vorst, Rodrigo Araya-Guerra, Maret Felzien, Douglas Fernald, Nancy Elder, Christine Duclos, John M. Westfall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this study was to learn about community members' definitions and types of harm from medical mistakes. Methods: Mixed methods study using community-based participatory research (CBPR). The High Plains Research Network (HPRN) with its Community Advisory Council (CAC) designed and distributed an anonymous survey through local community newspapers. Survey included open-ended questions on patients' experiences with medical mistakes and resultant harm. Qualitative analysis was performed by CAC and research team members on mistake descriptions and types of reported harm. Patient Safety Taxonomy coding was performed on a subset of surveys that contained actual medical errors. Results: A total of 286 surveys were returned, with 172 respondents (60%) reporting a total of 180 perceived medical mistakes. Quantitative analysis showed that 41% of perceived mistakes (n = 73) involved only unanticipated outcomes. Reported types of harm included emotional, financial, and physical harm. Reports suggest that perceived clinician indifference to unanticipated outcomes may lead to patients' loss of trust and belief that the unexpected outcome was a result of an error. Discussion: CBPR methodology is an important strategy to design and implement a community-based survey. Community members reported experiencing medical mistakes, most with harmful outcomes. The response they received by the medical community may have influenced their perception of mistake and harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-143
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


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