The above headline comes from a November 16, 2010 MSNBC story reporting on a November 2010 government study by the Department of Health and Human Services. The goal of this study was, “To estimate the national incidence of adverse events for hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries, assess the preventability of such events, and estimate associated costs to Medicare.”
Numerous articles in the general press reported on this study, including a Medscape article published on November 16, 2010 which stated, “An estimated 13.5% of hospitalized Medicare patients experience adverse events ranging from pulmonary embolisms to wrong-body-part surgery, and such events result in the death of 1.5% of all hospitalized Medicare patients.” According to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the US Department of Health and Human Services, 44% of these adverse events are preventable. The MSNBC article points out that this rate translates into about 15,000 people per month, who suffered a complication that contributed to their death.
The study was conducted by reviewing a sample of hospital discharges from October 2008. The numbers were then extrapolated into the general population to see just how large the problem was. In terms of expenses, the study reports that hospital care associated with adverse and temporary harm events cost Medicare an estimated $324 million in October 2008 alone. They note that this equates into $4.4 billion having to be spent on additional medical care associated with these adverse events per year.
In response to the study David Arkush, the director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division, commented, “The country is in a patient safety crisis. The only workable solution to preventing unnecessary deaths and injuries is to combine much more patient-protective hospital protocols with much better scrutiny by hospitals of physicians and other health care providers, and to appropriately discipline those whose performance results in preventable patient harm.”
Lisa McGiffert, the Director of the Consumer Union’s Safe Patient Project, commented by posting on the groups website, noting that OIG report “shows that hospital patients are being harmed by medical errors at an alarming rate.” She continued, “When mistakes are made in hospitals, the consequences can be serious and too often deadly. Unfortunately, most Americans have no way of knowing whether their hospital is doing a good job preventing medical errors.”