Adverse Events:

Surveillance Systems for Adverse Events and Medical Errors

T-HEHS-00-61: Published: Feb 9, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 2000.

Additional Materials:


William J. Scanlon
(202) 512-7114


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its report on issues related to adverse medical events in the nation's health care system.

GAO noted that: (1) the results of GAO's work have important implications for addressing adverse medical events including the design of surveillance systems to detect adverse events and medical errors; (2) while adverse events have been recognized as a serious problem, the full magnitude of their threat to the health of the American public is unknown; (3) gathering valid and useful information about adverse events is extremely difficult; (4) all systems that rely on health care providers to take the initiative to make a report--known as passive or spontaneous reporting systems--have serious limitations; (5) this is true whether or not providers are legally required to report adverse events; (6) both mandatory and voluntary spontaneous reporting systems share this limitation; (7) many of the injuries patients suffer as a result of medical treatment do not stem from errors but reflect the inherent risks of treatments that are administered correctly; and (8) it can be difficult both to identify these adverse reactions and distinguish them from medical errors or from the course of a patient's underlying illnesses.

Jan 14, 2021

Jan 4, 2021

Dec 22, 2020

Dec 16, 2020

Dec 14, 2020

Dec 10, 2020

Dec 7, 2020

Dec 1, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here