In Hospital Deaths From Medical Errors Reach 195,000 Per Year

Institute of Medicine (IOM)

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report titled “To Err is Human,” in which it reported that as many as 98,000 Americans die each year and another 1,000,000 are injured as a result of preventable medical errors.

On July 27, 2004, HealthGrades, Inc., the leading independent healthcare quality company which provides ratings information and advisory services to healthcare providers and insurance companies, issued its own study in which it reported that on average, 195,000 people die each year from potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors. This data was compiled for each of the years 2000, 2001, and 2002. The report studied 37 million Medicare patient records during this period.

HealthGrades vice president of medical affairs, Dr. Samantha Collier, stated: “The HealthGrades study shows that the IOM report may have underestimated the number of deaths due to medical errors, and, moreover, that there is little evidence that patient safety has improved in the last five years.”

The study reported that approximately 1.14 million total patient safety incidents occurred among the 37 million hospitalizations in the Medicare population from 2000-2002. The HealthGrades study also found that one in four Medicare patients who were hospitalized from 2000-2002 who experienced a patient-safety incident died.

Failure to diagnose and timely treat patients and unexpected deaths in low risk hospitalizations accounted for almost 75% of all mortality attributable to patient safety incidents. Decubitus Ulcers, Post-operative Pulmonary Embolism or Deep Vein Thrombosis and Post Operative Respiratory failure accounted for the other 25% of the deaths related to patient safety incidents.
Failure to diagnose and timely treat patients occurred at a rate of 155 patient safety incidents per 1,000 at risk hospitalizations. The next highest incidence of occurrences was in the category for Decubitus Ulcers with 30 patient safety incidents for every 1,000 at risk hospitalizations.

To put these staggering numbers into perspective the HealthGrades report notes that the provable reported deaths from in-hospital medical errors equates to three fully loaded jumbo jets crashing every other day for the last five years. It further states “The United States loses more American lives to patient safety incidents every six months that it did in the entire Vietnam War.”

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