Pennsylvania residents may find it interesting yet alarming to learn that according to a recent Journal of Patient Safety publication, in the U.S. harm caused to patients during the course of their hospital stay because of medical mistakes or errors was the third leading cause of death behind in ranking only to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The study estimated that nearly 440,000 patients lost their lives due to medical errors or or failure to diagnose. These included deaths due to not receiving the necessary tests and treatments, due to the administration of incorrect drugs or infections acquired during their hospital stay. Although the author of the study acknowledged that the exact numbers of hospital deaths because of medical errors is difficult to determine due to under reporting by hospitals and because it is hard to determine if a patient’s death was due to an underlying medical condition or medical error.
Nevertheless, the study’s estimates are fairly consistent with the 1999 Institute of Medicine report which estimated that 98,000 hospital patients perish annually because of medical mistakes. Furthermore, even though a Department of Health and Human Services study only examined Medicare patients four years ago, it similarly estimated that nearly 180,000 died every year partly because of the care they received at their hospital.
Additionally the author of the study looked at two hospital mortality measures namely patients’ medical conditions such as cardiovascular issues, and surgery patients to determine a patient’s survival following a health event. The study found that some hospitals were better than others. Some reasons for better patient survival, and lower medical errors in some hospitals was attributed to better communication between doctors, staff and patients about medications and strict directives on hand washing to prevent infections during insertion and removal of catheters.
Furthermore, the study noted that informed patients’ who play an active role in their treatment can prevent medical errors. Some tips for patients included having a patient advocate, researching one’s medications, tests, learning as much as possible about the hospital and treatment, and keeping a journal on what is happening.
Source: Reuters, “Hospital ratings show sharp differences in safety, chance of dying,” Sharon Begley, March 27, 2014