Sunday, July 27, 2014

RIP: Death by Medical Error, 400,000 year in the US

In 2013 there were over 35,000 traffic deaths in the US. That's over 10 fatalities per 100,000. (Scotland appears the safest at just over 3 per 100,000, Germany by contrast has a rate less than 5 per 100,000, Argentina has over 12 per 100,000 and South Africa the "winner" per over 27 per 100,000.)

Contrast that with an estimated 400,000 deaths by medical errors ... that's around 130 deaths per 100,000. I don't know about you, but for me that raises real concerns. When I got into the field of human engineering for medical devices in 2009, I saw reports of around 100,000 per year in the US. I found that shocking. Now it's being reported that medical errors are killing 4 times more people than we originally believed? Takes your breath away.

The article that reports this finding is:

James, John T. (2013) A new evidence-based estimate of patient harms associated with hospital care. Journal of Patient Safety, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Here a link to the article that report this with a portion of the abstract. The article is free and worth reading.


Abstract (Redacted)

Based on 1984 data developed from reviews of medical records of patients treated in New York hospitals, the Institute of Medicine estimated that up to 98,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. The basis of this estimate is nearly 3 decades old; herein, an updated estimate is developed from modern studies published from 2008 to 2011.
[T]he true number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm to patients was estimated at more than 400,000 per year. Serious harm seems to be 10- to 20-fold more common than lethal harm.

Another article that suggests that death by medical error may still be underreported

Here's a recent article in Baltimore's THE SUN that describes how Maryland hospitals are underreporting their medical errors. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg nationally on this story. 

This article cites the James article above.

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