Hospital Errors: Study Finds Preventable Errors Continue To Harm Patients At Alarming Rate

doctors.jpg“Don’t go to the hospital if you don’t want to get sick” is frequently said in jest by many of my colleagues who represent people who have been harmed by mistakes made in hospitals.

Now, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine regarding errors made at North Carolina hospitals reinforces this saying.

The study evaluated hospital data from 2002 to 2007 and looked at patient charts that contained codes for medical conditions that where generally associated with errors made by hospital staff.

Amongst the common errors made by hospitals include:

  • Severe bleeding during an operation
  • Breathing troubles caused by an incorrectly performed procedure
  • Falls
  • Vaginal cuts that resulted during delivery

The overall rate of hospital errors was a shockingly high 25.1%!   However, a closer analysis revealed that most of the errors resulted in temporary illness or injury and were treatable.

A closer evaluation of the studies data still revealed an alarming rate of serious hospital errors resulting in serious patient injury with 2.4 % of the errors causing or contributing to patient death.  Another 2.9% of cases involving hospital errors resulted in a permanent injury to the patient.

What makes the rate of hospital errors in this study even more alarming (as if there wasn’t enough to be concerned about) is the fact that many North Carolina hospitals are actively involved in programs to reduce errors at their facilities.

Dr. Mark Chassin, president of the Joint Commission, an organization that accredits hospitals responded to the studies findings saying, “preventable complications are way to frequent in American health care” and “it’s not a problem we’re going to get rid of in six months or a year.”

While the results of this study certainly are alarming, the fact that most hospital patients are completely unaware of the potential threats to their health is even more so.  Hopefully, public outcry will drive hospitals to disclose their error rate and put a premium on patient safety.


Study Finds No Progress in Safety at Hospitals by Denise Grady The New York Times November 24, 2010

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Now that we score nursing homes, is it time to do the same with hospitals?

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