"It's very useful to have robust estimates of the frequency of harm over time in a relatively large sample," said Bates, who also serves as medical director of clinical and quality analysis for Partners Healthcare System in Massachusetts and is associate editor of the Journal of Patient Safety.
Like Landrigan, Dr. Jeffrey Rothschild of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston believes patient safety has likely improved since the study concluded three years ago.
"But lots of opportunities for improvement are still out there," said Rothschild, also an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "One of the challenges is gaining a really good handle on the extent of the problem."
The researchers, who were from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Stanford University Medical School and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, pointed out that several practices proven to improve patient safety take much time and money to implement.
These practices include work-hour limits for medical staff as well as the use of electronic medical records and computerized work-order entries for prescriptions and procedures.
"It takes awhile for these improvements to happen," Landrigan said. "My suspicion is, if we go five years hence, we're going to see these improvements over time."
The research was funded by a grant from the Rx Foundation and by funds from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
For more on patient safety, go to the U.S. National Library of Medicine .
SOURCES: Christopher Landrigan, M.D., assistant professor, pe
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