The purpose of this study was to determine the rate of self-reported errors in Canada compared with other countries, and to identify risk factors for medical error. In 2007, the Commonwealth Fund surveyed a sample of adults in seven industrialized nations, including Canada. Data from this source were used to perform a bivariate analysis comparing those individuals who reported having experienced a medical error with those who did not, followed by a logistic regression model to delineate the relationship between medical error and several explanatory variables.

Overall, 11,910 respondents from seven countries were included in the analysis. The rate of self-reported medical error ranged from 12 to 20% in the seven nations. Approximately one in six Canadians reported having experienced at least one error in the past two years, which translates to 4.2 million adult Canadians. Several variables were found to have a statistically significant relationship to self-reported medical errors in the final regression model, including high prescription drug use, the presence of a chronic condition, a lack of physician time with the patient, age under 65, a lack of patient involvement in care, perceived inadequate nursing staffing and an absence of a regular doctor. Identification of several patient, provider and system characteristics associated with self-reported medical error should aid in the development of strategies to address this problem by healthcare decision-makers and clinicians.