Pressure Sores Among Most Costly Post-Operative Injuries, Studies Say

By Nursing Home Law Center

Post Operative Injuries

Two recent studies published in Health Affairs indicate that post-operative pressure sores are among the most costly injuries caused by medical error, according to

Of the ten costliest medical errors, pressure ulcers ranked No. 2, second only to postoperative infections. Other common errors included infection due to a central venous catheter, infection following a blood infusion, and abdominal hernia. Hospital-acquired pressure ulcers are among the Federal Government’s list of “never events”, or avoidable injuries that should never occur at U.S. hospitals.

The first Health Affairs study, authored by Milliman consultant Jill Van Den Bos, found that the total annual cost of medical errors is about $17 billion. The total “social cost” – the sum of costs to doctors, providers, and all other individuals affected by the error – is much higher, between $348 and $913 billion. Van Den Bos and her colleagues arrived at their conclusions by analyzing an 8-year sample of national medical claims data, from 2000 to 2008.

The second study, by John Goodman of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), produced similar findings.

“Your chances of dying from a cause other than the one you were hospitalized for are as high as one in 200”, says NCPA senior fellow and coauthor Pamela Villarreal, adding that all patients have a one in twenty chance of getting a hospital-caused infection.

Villareal advises hospitals to adopt a “no-fault” compensation system, whereby compensation for death would be set at $200,000, and injury at $20,000.

“This type of compensation system would give hospitals and providers economic incentives to reduce error rates”, says Villareal.

Goodman and Villareal estimate that as many as 6.1 million injuries occur in hospitals each year as a result of adverse medical effects.

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