When Mistakes Multiply: How Inadequate Responses to Medical Mishaps Erode Trust in American Medicine
Abstract: In this essay, we explore consequences of the systemic failure to track and to publicize the prevalence of patient-safety threats in American medicine. Tens of millions of Americans lose trust in medical care every year due to safety shortfalls. Because this loss of trust is long-lasting, the corrosive effects build up over time, yielding a collective maelstrom of mistrust among the American public. Yet no one seems to notice that patient safety is a root cause, because no one is counting. In addition to identifying the origins of this purblindness, we offer an alternative policy approach. This would call for government to transparently track safety threats through the systematic collection and reporting of patients’ experiences. This alternative strategy offers real promise for stemming the erosion of trust that currently accompanies patient-safety shortfalls while staying consistent with Americans’ preferences for a constrained government role with respect to medical care.