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1 in 3 Hospitalized Patients Suffers an Adverse Event

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 7, 2011

More realistically, her report estimates there are 187,000 hospital deaths a year. And other than the IoM report's estimate of one million injuries, in fact, the Milliman study says there are 6.1 medically-caused injuries inside and outside hospitals.

And another article, by John Goodman, chief executive officer of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas, estimates enormous social costs– $393 billion to $958 billion per year due to adverse medical events.

A fourth article looked just at California acute care hospitals and estimated that 9,600 Californians die from hospital-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)infections each year. Those infections add $3 billion to the state's healthcare costs annually. Although California now has a public reporting program geared to raising awareness and reducing such errors, many other states do not.

Indeed, hospital reporting in California is revealing the extent of the problem. A recent table prepared by the California Department of Public Health reveals an increase in reporting in each of the last three fiscal years in all categories of adverse events. For example, surgical events increased from 224 in FY 2007/08 to 273 in FY 2008/09 to 344 in FY 2009/10. 

Retention of a foreign surgical object, the biggest share of those, increased from 154 to 191 to 266.

Care management events increased from 616 to 1023, but dropped slightly to 1,004. These include deaths or serious disabilities associated with a medication error, incompatible blood, labor and delivery, hypoglycemia, hyperbilirubinemia in neonates, decubitus ulcers or spinal manipulation therapy. I hope they are not making more errors, but are in fact just reporting many that were silently hidden in the past.

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2 comments on "1 in 3 Hospitalized Patients Suffers an Adverse Event"


Martine Ehrenclou (4/8/2011 at 3:48 PM)
It is a sad state of affairs but there is much a patient can do to help prevent medical errors. First, enlist the help of a loved one to act as your advocate to help oversee and monitor your hospital medical care. Each time you have a new medical encounter, repeat your full name and date of birth. Ask the medical professional to check. I wrote a book about how to survive a hospital stay and it's full of strategies. If we work in collaboration with the hospital medical staff, we have a better chance of eliminating more medical errors. This is a team effort. My book is Critical Conditions: The Essential Hospital Guide To Get Your Loved One Out Alive.

Barry Bodie (4/7/2011 at 1:38 PM)
After doing this for nearly thirty years, I am amazed that no matter how careful you are, how much you try to prevent adverse consequences or how diligently you watch things, people are still going to have problems because of worn out immune systems, aging and the ravages of untreated and often ignored disease. Are we going to punish doctors for pulmonary embolism in an obese, smoking diabetic, lung cancer patient requiring ventilatory support because of a community acquired pneumonia. Why are we listing wound infections in patients operated on for diverticular abscesses or gangrenous gallbladders? All this is not in the interest of treating patients as they come to use, but in the interest of saving money at the expense of good medical care.