Hospital medical errors third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Hospital medical errors now the third leading cause of death in the U.S. – FierceHealthcare | September 20, 2013 | By Ilene MacDonald

The latest numbers are dramatically higher than those in the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report, To Err is Human: Building A Safer Health System, which estimated that up to 98,000 people a year die because of hospital mistakes. The data for that report is based on medical record reviews from 1984 and doesn’t take into account studies published since 2008.

The new study reveals that each year preventable adverse events (PAEs) lead to the death of 210,000-400,000 patients who seek care at a hospital.

Those figures would make medical errors the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics.  

The problem, James said, is that action and progress on patient safety has been slow. He wrote that he hoped these latest evidence-based estimates of 400,000 patient deaths each year will foster an “outcry for overdue changes and increased vigilance in medical care to address the problem of harm to patients who come to a hospital seeking only to be healed.”  

How Many Die From Medical Mistakes in U.S. Hospitals? – ProPublica | Marshall Allen, Sep. 19, 2013

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services said that bad hospital care contributed to the deaths of 180,000 patients in Medicare alone in a given year.

Now comes a study in the current issue [1] of the Journal of Patient Safety that says the numbers may be much higher — between 210,000 and 440,000 patients [2] each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death, the study says.

That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America [3], behind heart disease, which is the first, and cancer, which is second.

What’s the right number? Nobody knows for sure. There’s never been an actual count of how many patients experience preventable harm. So we’re left with approximations, which are imperfect in part because of inaccuracies in medical records and the reluctance of some providers to report mistakes.

An estimate of 440,000 deaths from care in hospitals “is roughly one-sixth of all deaths that occur in the United States each year,” James wrote in his study. He also cited other research that’s shown hospital reporting systems and peer-review capture only a fraction of patient harm or negligent care.

“Perhaps it is time for a national patient bill of rights for hospitalized patients,” James wrote. “All evidence points to the need for much more patient involvement in identifying harmful events and participating in rigorous follow-up investigations to identify root causes.”

“Way too many people are being harmed by unintentional medical error,” Mayer said, “and it needs to be corrected.”  

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2 thoughts on “Hospital medical errors third leading cause of death in the U.S.

  1. Pingback: Medical mistakes kill more than 400,000 each year | EDS Info (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)

  2. Pingback: Letter to CDC: Need ICD Code for Medical Errors | EDS Info (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)

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