Medical Errors in Hospitals are Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.
The Journal of Patient Safety discussed recent studies which have shown that preventable medical errors are responsible for between 200,000 and 400,000 patient deaths per year in U.S. hospitals. These errors include facility acquired infections, medication errors, omissions in treatment, communication errors between health care providers, nerve or vessel injuries, wrong operations, injuries to organs during surgical procedures, blood clots, diagnostic errors, and wound infections. The number of deaths caused by medical errors committed in a hospital, but which occur after a patient is discharged from a hospital, is equally large.
The cost of deaths due to preventable medical errors is obviously staggering in terms of the emotional loss felt by the family members and loved ones of those who have needlessly died, but the financial loss is shocking as well. By some estimates, medical errors cost the United States between $15 and 19 billion per year in additional medical costs including ancillary services, prescription drug services, and in-patient and out-patient care.
Interestingly, one study found that patients reported 3 times as many preventable adverse events than were indicated in their records. This study also found that physicians often refuse to report serious adverse events, with cardiologists being the highest of the non-reporting physician groups.