Medical errors are third leading cause of death in US

May 4, 2016    |   By: Alex Christgen, BS, CPPS

A recent article from BMJ states medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US after heart disease and cancer. The article follows the 1999 IOM report which made the first attempt to determine preventable harm in healthcare. The IOM report estimated a staggering 44,000 to 98,000 patient deaths each year due to medical errors.  In 2013, the IOM’s reported numbers were determined to be grossly underestimated based on a newer study suggesting the actual number was likely to be more than 400,000 deaths per year as result of medical errors.

The article includes the following call to action:

  1. make errors more visible when they occur so their effects can be intercepted
  2. have remedies at hand to rescue patients
  3. make errors less frequent by following principles that take human limitations into account

The article’s Call to Action aligns with the Center for Patient Safety’s (CPS) program objectives and mission. Reducing errors in healthcare is achievable with open communication in a positive culture that supports learning from mistakes in a safe environment, but not just within the walls of a single organization. Organizations and healthcare providers must learn and share with one another, across the continuum of care.

Although the article specifically references medical errors in the inpatient hospital setting, CPS’ recently released annual report suggests medical errors resulting in patient deaths in LTC, home care, ASCs, medical offices and EMS settings may be just as prevalent.

CPS supports patient safety efforts through the provision of programs aimed at improving organizational culture, increasing awareness of medical errors, and providing an environment that supports safe discussion of mistakes.  Through Protecting, Learning, and Preventing, CPS is working with organizations and healthcare providers across the country to improve patient safety every day.

Contact us to join the healthcare movement to safer care.

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