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Medical errors affect 13.5% of Medicare hospital patients

November 16, 2010

I guess this is medical errors week/month here at The Pulse!  All of the talk about mistakes at Rhode Island Hospital and Women and Infants has made me more aware of all of the resources out there on this topic.

Here’s another new report to add to the pile- the  Department of Health and Human Services has taken a look at the prevalence of so called “adverse events” (harm caused by medical care) for Medicare patients that go to the hospital.

If you’ve been following my posts lately, you won’t be surprised by the numbers, but they’re still not good.  The report estimates that one out of every seven hospital patients with Medicare experienced an adverse event in 2008.  That means about 134,000 Medicare recipients a month.

The researchers say at least 44% of the mistakes were preventable, and one month of those adverse events cost the federal government around $324 million dollars.

What do we do about this?  It’s been more than 10 years since the landmark report on medical errors, To Err is Human pointed out the prevalence of medical errors, yet they persist.

Donald Berwick, the current head of CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Studies) is  a former member of the governing council for the organization that released To Err is Human and he wrote a follow up article, five years later, which found that progress on medical errors is “frustratingly slow.”  Perhaps his leadership will help speed things up a bit?

This recent study of adverse events for Medicare patients recommends doing a better job of preventing all sorts of adverse events, not just some of the more obvious ones like wrong site surgery and retained foreign objects. It also suggests  more  measuring and monitoring of adverse events in hospitals as well as giving Medicare more power to withhold reimbursements for a wide array of mistakes.

Do you think these measures will help?  Or is there something else we can do?


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