To my dismay, I’ve just read the findings of a new report released by the journal Health Affairs, which found that medical errors and adverse events in hospitals may be 10 times higher than experts previously thought.
Shockingly, the study found that health care professionals commit patient-care errors in one in three hospital admissions. While not all of these errors are serious, some—such as giving a patient the wrong blood type, inadequately preventing hospital-acquired infections, or leaving surgical equipment inside patients—can be fatal. Not only do medical errors injure patients, they contribute to the skyrocketing health care costs across the country, and in many cases, these costs are passed along to the very patients who were injured by the error in the first place.
The lead author of the study, David C. Classen, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at the University of Utah, says the troubling findings might actually be conservative: If the researchers had been observing patient care in real time, not scrutinizing charts later, they may well have detected even more problems. –AARP
This particular study was designed to be more sensitive than most in detecting medical errors. According to the researchers:
…the two main methods "commonly used to track patient safety in the United States today — voluntary reporting and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Patient Safety Indicators — fared very poorly compared with other methods and missed 90 percent of the adverse events." –AARP
This is absolutely unacceptable. If these sorts of numbers were reported in any other industry, there would be a widespread public outcry and the problems would be fixed immediately. Why is the epidemic of medical errors, which stand to affect every one of us at one time or another in our lives, so pervasively ignored?