It is one of the most rigorous efforts to collect data about patient safety since a landmark report in 1999 found that medical mistakes caused as many as 98,000 deaths and more than one million injuries a year in the United States.Studies have repeatedly shown that problems at hospitals adversely affect patient outcomes - and increase the costs for everyone. Whether it's problems with incorrect drug dosages or improperly conducted medical procedures, costs are increased every time there is an error at hospitals.
That report, by the Institute of Medicine, an independent group that advises the government on health matters, led to a national movement to reduce errors and make hospital stays less hazardous to patients’ health.
Severe bleeding, breathing trouble
Among the preventable problems that Dr. Landrigan’s team identified were severe bleeding during an operation, serious breathing trouble caused by a procedure that was performed incorrectly, a fall that dislocated a patient’s hip and damaged a nerve, and vaginal cuts caused by a vacuum device used to help deliver a baby.
Dr. Landrigan’s team focused on North Carolina because its hospitals, compared with those in most states, have been more involved in programs to improve patient safety.
But instead of improvements, the researchers found a high rate of problems. About 18 percent of patients were harmed by medical care, some more than once, and 63.1 percent of the injuries were judged to be preventable.
Most of the problems were temporary and treatable, but some were serious, and a few — 2.4 percent — caused or contributed to a patient’s death, the study found.
The worrisome part is that efforts to reduce errors hasn't improved matters sufficiently.
Now, not all problems result in death or disfigurement, but there are significant costs associated with the need for additional medications and lengthened hospital stays.
Medication errors can be reduced with the use of specialized prescription systems that check for adverse reactions or improper dosages, but a fraction of the nation's hospitals have these systems.