Background. Errors have been the concern of providers and consumers of health care services. However, consumers' perception of medical errors in developing countries is rarely explored. The aim of this study is to assess community members' perceptions about medical errors and to analyse the factors affecting this perception in one Middle East country, Oman. Methods. Face to face interviews were conducted with heads of 212 households in two villages in North Al-Batinah region of Oman selected because of close proximity to the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), Muscat, Oman. Participants' perceived knowledge about medical errors was assessed. Responses were coded and categorised. Analyses were performed using Pearson's χ2, Fisher's exact tests, and multivariate logistic regression model wherever appropriate. Results. Seventy-eight percent (n = 165) of participants believed they knew what was meant by medical errors. Of these, 34% and 26.5% related medical errors to wrong medications or diagnoses, respectively. Understanding of medical errors was correlated inversely with age and positively with family income. Multivariate logistic regression revealed that a one-year increase in age was associated with a 4% reduction in perceived knowledge of medical errors (CI: 1% to 7%; p = 0.045). The study found that 49% of those who believed they knew the meaning of medical errors had experienced such errors. The most common consequence of the errors was severe pain (45%). Of the 165 informed participants, 49% felt that an uncaring health care professional was the main cause of medical errors. Younger participants were able to list more possible causes of medical errors than were older subjects (Incident Rate Ratio of 0.98; p < 0.001). Conclusion. The majority of participants believed they knew the meaning of medical errors. Younger participants were more likely to be aware of such errors and could list one or more causes.
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