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Study Reveals Medical Errors at Hospitals 10 Times Greater than Reported
When you enter the hospital for a health care concern, you are usually not focused on the question of ‘what else could go wrong with me while I am here?”. Yet, a recent study by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement based out of Cambridge, MA reported that one in three persons will be affected by medical error, otherwise known as an ‘adverse event’. The study reported that these “‘adverse events’ in hospitals may be ten times greater than previously measured”. Adverse hospital events are those in which the patient suffers injury as a result of medical error rather than from their underlying medical condition, examples of which are bloodstream infections, medication errors, and pressure sores .
The study, published in the April issue of Health Affairs, claims that these adverse events occurred in one third of the admissions to the hospitals studied. The researchers reviewed the medical records of 795 patients at three large U.S. hospitals. In reviewing the records, they employed a method called “Global Trigger Tool”, whereby they looked at the bad outcomes found using ‘triggers’ or notations indicating problems such as medication stop orders, abnormal lab results, or antidotes. Using their method they identified 354 adverse events among the patients. In contrast, 90% of these errors went undetected by the methods currently used by U.S. regulators, as this found only 35 errors. Furthermore, the voluntary reporting methods used by the hospitals only found 4 errors. These two methods are currently used by care delivery organizations and accepted by policymakers as a basis to determine patient safety.
The researchers concluded that “Hospitals that use such methods alone to measure their overall performance on patient safety may be seriously misjudging actual performance. Reliance on such methods could produce misleading conclusions about safety in the U.S. health-care system and could misdirect patient-safety improvement efforts.”
It has been nearly twelve years since the Institute of Medicine released its report on the status of the quality of health care, where it reported that nearly 98,000 people are harmed each year by medical errors. Despite efforts to improve the quality of care, it was estimated that medical errors that cause harm to patients costs the U.S. nearly $17 billion dollars each year, this according to a review by Milliman Inc., a Seattle based consulting firm, which was also published in the April issue of Health Affairs .
Obviously it is not the goal of hospitals or healthcare providers to provide substandard care to its patients, yet many factors such as fragmented processes, unreliable equipment, and poor communication can lead to harmful medical errors. Recently, the “Partnership for Patients”, a public-private organization, was established with the goal of improving patient safety. To find out additional information on this program, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/center/programs/partnership/index.html
As a patient, if you feel you have become the victim of medical malpractice or ‘adverse event’ of medical treatment, seek the professional advice of an experienced attorney to determine your rights.