Medical errors are responsible for injury in as many as 1 out of every 25 hospital patients; an estimated 48,000-98,000 patients die from medical errors each year. This means that more people die from medical errors than from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. Errors in health care have been estimated to cost more than $5 million per year in a large teaching hospital, and preventable health care-related cost the economy from $17 to $29 billion each year. What are Medical Errors?
Medical errors happen when something that was planned as a part of medical care doesn't work out, or when the wrong plan was used in the first place. Medical errors can occur anywhere in the health care system: • Hospitals.
• Outpatient Surgery Centers.
• Doctors' Offices.
• Nursing Homes.
• Patients' Homes.
Errors can involve:
• Lab reports.
They can happen during even the most routine tasks, such as when a hospital patient on a salt-free diet is given a high-salt meal. Most errors result from problems created by today's complex health care system. But errors also happen when doctors and their patients have problems communicating. For example, a recent study supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found that doctors often do not do enough to help their patients make informed decisions. Uninvolved and uninformed patients are less likely to accept the doctor's choice of treatment and less likely to do what they need to do to make the treatment work. Patients at Risk
Medical errors may result in:
• A patient inadvertently given the wrong medicine.
• A clinician misreading the results of a test.
• An elderly woman with ambiguous symptoms (shortness of breath, abdominal pain, and dizziness) whose heart attack is not diagnosed by emergency room staff. Errors like these are responsible for preventable injury in as many as 1 out of every 25 hospital patients. Errors in health care have been estimated to cost more than $5 million per year in a large teaching hospital. According to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), preventable health care-related injuries cost the economy from $17 to $29 billion annually, of which half are health care costs. The IOM report estimates that 44,000 to 98,000 people each year die from medical errors. Even the lower estimate is higher than the annual mortality from motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297), or AIDS (16,516), thus making medical errors the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. These and other findings of the IOM report are based on research sponsored by a variety of organizations, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). For example, a study by AHRQ found that just one type of error—preventable adverse drug events—caused one out of five injuries or deaths per year to patients in the hospitals that were studied
How Errors Occur
Errors can occur at any point in the health care delivery system, AHRQ-supported research has revealed. Medication Errors
These are preventable mistakes in prescribing and delivering medication to patients, such as prescribing two or more drugs whose interaction is known to produce side effects or prescribing a drug to which the patient is known to be allergic. Research by AHRQ-supported investigators is helping to characterize these errors (called preventable adverse drug events, or ADEs) and suggest how to prevent them. • In a study of inpatient care in two tertiary care hospitals, errors in ordering and administering medicines accounted for 56 and 34 percent, respectively, of preventable adverse drug events. • Findings from a second study showed that dosage errors, in particular, were primarily due to the physician's lack of knowledge about the drug or about the patient for whom it was prescribed....