Beyond its small size and the fact that it was conducted at just one hospital, other limitations of the study include its reliance on English-speaking parents and its sample of participants who were predominantly female, well-educated and affluent, the authors note.
Kids of non-English-speaking parents may be particularly vulnerable to errors, and it’s possible that including these families might have exposed even higher rates of parent-reported errors, the researchers point out.
Even so, the findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that clinicians may often be unaware of errors affecting their patients, said Dr. Daniel Neuspiel, a pediatrics researcher at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Charlotte who wasn’t involved in the study.
“The specific frequency of such errors may differ in other populations, but we know they occur in all clinical settings,” Neuspiel added by email.
While the study is too small to draw broad conclusions on error rates or safety, it still highlights the value of parents speaking up when something seems amiss with their child’s care, said Dr. Irini Kolaitis, a pediatrics researcher at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago who wasn’t involved in the study.
“A parent knows their child better than any member of the health care team does, stands by their bedside and plays an active role in their child’s health care delivery throughout their hospitalization and after discharge, and often has a sense when something is not right,” Kolaitis said by email. “For these reasons, any perceived error that a parent reports noting in the care of their child must be taken seriously.”