Epidemiology of Errors
A clearer picture of the epidemiology of errors is also needed. Much of what we know comes from large hospital-based studies on the prevalence of inpatient injuries (Brennan et al., 1991; Leape et al., 1991). Errors are more likely to occur in higher-risk areas (e.g., emergency and operating rooms and intensive care units), with older patients who require complicated care, and with prolonged
stays in the hospital (Bogner, 1994; Weingart, Wilson, Gibberd, & Harrison, 2000).
What limited knowledge we have about the prevalence, types, and causes of medical error is primarily reflective of the care for adults in acute settings. Even less is known about medical error in other settings, such as rural areas and
among underserved populations (e.g., minorities, older persons). Another obstacle to arriving at a better understanding of medical error is the lack of a standard nomenclature or taxonomy for medical error. The absence of such a taxonomy makes it difficult to identify, report on, analyze, and characterize the prevalence, types, and causes of errors and close calls. HF/E professionals have experience with these challenges.