Hospital Errors and Avoidable Patient Deaths

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A leading patient safety organization found that avoidable medical errors made in hospitals cause nearly 450 patient deaths each day in the United States.

Twice a year the Leapfrog Group releases its patient safety grades for U.S. hospitals.  The Leapfrog Group is an independent, nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the nation’s healthcare quality and safety.   The grades to hospitals range from “A” (the best) to “F” (failing).

Of the 2,620 U.S. hospitals graded in the newly released Spring 2019 report, 32 percent received an “A.”  But the most common grade given to hospitals for patient safety was a “C” –patient care deemed to be average.  About 26 percent of Missouri hospitals received the highest grade for patient safety.  Overall, Missouri finished in the bottom half of state hospital safety grades.

Patient Safety in St. Louis Hospitals

Of the 26 St. Louis-area hospitals graded, 27 percent were given an “A.”  But mirroring national grades, “C” was the most common St. Louis hospital patient safety grade. Two local hospitals received a “D.”

The grades are based on how a hospital performs relative to some common medical errors that harm patients in hospitals.  These include:

  • Dangerous staph infections patients receive while in a hospital
  • Surgical errors, such as dangerous objects left in patient’s body or surgical wound infections
  • Patient falls and bedsores

The hospital safety grades incorporated 16 different patient safety measures.  When hospitals failed to adequately address these patient safety measures, a large number of patients needlessly died.

That’s the conclusion of a survey conducted by the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality.  The research (“Lives Lost, Lives Saved: An Updated Comparative Analysis of Avoidable Deaths at Hospitals Graded by The Leapfrog Group”) was funded by The Leapfrog Group to see what the link is between hospital medical errors and avoidable patient deaths.

Patient Deaths Due to Hospital Errors

The study estimated that 161,250 hospital patients die each year due to medical mistakes made in hospitals; about 442 people every single day on average.  Researchers calculated that “C” hospitals have six avoidable patient deaths per 1,000 admissions.

As expected, the worse patient safety grade a hospital receives the higher the chances for patient deaths in the facility.  When compared to an “A”-rated hospital, a hospital receiving a “C”– the most common St. Louis grade – has an 88 percent higher chance for a fatal medical error.  For “D” hospitals the risk of avoidable patient deaths climbs to 92 percent.

The study broke down the rates of avoidable deaths for each of the 16 Leapfrog Group patient safety measures.  Again as expected, the lower the patient safety grade the higher the percentage of patient harm,  For example:

  • Blood stream infection from central line ranged from .12 percent per 1,000 admissions for “A” hospitals to .24  percent for “D” and “F” hospitals and had an overall patient mortality rate of 18.5 percent
  • Patient falls in hospitals ranged from .03 percent per 1,000 admissions for “A” hospitals to .05 percent in “D” and “F” hospitals and had a patient mortality rate of 5.5 percent
  • Problems with a surgical wound ranged from .08 percent per 1,000 admissions for “A” hospitals to .09 percent in “D” and “F” hospitals and had a patient mortality rate of 9.63 percent

The Leapfrog Group recommends that if you see a hospital medical error or are concerned something may go wrong, you should speak with a hospital employee – doctor, nurse or even a custodian – immediately.

But if you ultimately were seriously injured or you lost a family member due to a mistake in medical care, speak with a medical malpractice attorney about bringing to account all those 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 Articles May 21, 2019

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