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Medical Errors Costing U.S. Billions
Date:4/8/2008

Mistakes resulted in 238,337 preventable deaths from 2006-08, survey finds

TUESDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- From 2004 through 2006, patient safety errors resulted in 238,337 potentially preventable deaths of U.S. Medicare patients and cost the Medicare program $8.8 billion, according to the fifth annual Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study.

This analysis of 41 million Medicare patient records, released April 8 by HealthGrades, a health care ratings organization, found that patients treated at top-performing hospitals were, on average, 43 percent less likely to experience one or more medical errors than patients at the poorest-performing hospitals.

The overall medical error rate was about 3 percent for all Medicare patients, which works out to about 1.1 million patient safety incidents during the three years included in the analysis.

Among the other findings:

  • Patients who experienced a patient safety incident had a 20 percent chance of dying as a result of the incident.
  • The overall death rate among patients who experienced one or more patient safety incidents fell by almost 5 percent between 2004 and 2006.
  • However, over that time, there were increases in post-operative respiratory failure, post-operative pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis, post-operative sepsis (blood infection), and post-operative abdominal wound separation/splitting.
  • The most common types of medical errors were bed sores, failure to rescue, and post-operative respiratory failure. Together, they accounted for 63.4 percent of incidents. Failure to rescue improved 11.1 percent from 2004 to 2006, while both bed sores and post-operative respiratory failure worsened during that time.
  • Of the 270,491 deaths that occurred among patients who experienced one or more patient safety incidents, 238,337 were potentially preventable, the researchers said.
  • If all hospital
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