A Quarter of Hospital Patients are Victims of a Medical Error

A 2016 study concluded that as many as 250,000 people in the United States die every year from a medical error.  A new study finds that one out of four Medicare hospital patients is a victim of a medical error, with nearly half of the errors being preventable.

A Johns Hopkins University study released in May 2016 (“Medical Error—The Third Leading Cause of Death in the US”)  determined that medical errors at the time were America’s third leading cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer.

250,000 Patients Die Each Year Due to a Medical Error

The researchers attributed over 250,000 patient deaths to medical errors but cautioned the number was probably higher since the data they used was only from hospitals and did not include possible medical errors in outpatient clinics and nursing homes.

While the Johns Hopkins study included all U.S. hospital patients, the report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  focused on Medicare patients in hospitals (“Adverse Events in Hospitals: A Quarter of Medicare Patients Experienced Harm in October 2018”).

The federal agency reviewed the records of approximately 260,000 Medicare hospital patients for October 2018. It discovered that one out of every four of those patients experienced harm from a medical error. The harm varied, from longer hospital stays to death:

  • 13% of all patients experienced temporary harm (137,000 patients)
  • 12% of all patients experienced an “adverse event” – one that left permanent harm, required life-saving measures, or was fatal, and the harm was not connected to the medical condition (121,000 patients)

More specifically, a medical error contributed or resulted in the death of 10% of hospital patients who suffered an adverse event.

Many of the Medical Errors are Avoidable

The researchers determined that 43% of all the medical errors the patients suffered were preventable. They linked the preventable errors to substandard or inadequate medical care.

Medication errors are among the most common of preventable medical errors.

More than four out of every 10 medical errors were drug administration related. Of those, 41% resulted in an adverse event – the most serious category of patient harm included in the study.

Another serious type of medical error included in the study involved surgical errors.  These accounted for 22% of all patient harm.

Hospital-acquired infections were responsible for 11% of patient harm.  Hospital-acquired infections typically are preventable and can be fatal.  The most common hospital-acquired infections found by the researchers were:

  • Respiratory infection
  • Surgical site infection
  • Thrush
  • Sepsis
  • C.diff infection

More than 40% of the hospital patient adverse events could have been prevented if patients “had received better care,” according to the study’s conclusion.

If you believe you or a loved one experienced serious harm from substandard medical care, a personal injury lawyer can investigate to determine if preventable medical errors were made and pursue just compensation from all responsible.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog June 6, 2022


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