A big thanks to the folks at Project Millennial for publishing my newest blog post: “Why Haven’t We Eliminated Medical Errors?“. Project Millennial is a health care blog seeking to get the allegedly apathetic millennial generation excited about health care. There are some fantastic regular contributors to the blog, and I’m honored to have a post included by them.
I’ve included the opening of my post here:
To Err is (Still) Human
Last week, Consumer Reports released its new “surgery ratings”, encompassing 2,463 hospitals in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The ratings measure the rate of hospital deaths and unexpected discharge delays for 27 common surgeries, including hip and knee replacements, back surgery, and angioplasty. Scrolling through the publicly available ratings list, I was struck by the number of dark shaded circles filling my screen—each one representing a hospital that performed poorly by their standards.
It’s been 14 years since the Institute of Medicine published its landmark “To Err Is Human” study, which estimated that a shocking 44,000-98,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors (0.2%-0.5% of hospitalizations). The study called for a 50% reduction in errors by 2004, asking, “Must we wait another decade to be safe in our health system?” It appears so; a 2010 NEJM study measured the rate of errors in ten North Carolina hospitals from 2002 to 2007. North Carolina was specifically chosen for having a “high level of engagement in efforts to improve patient safety.” Yet out of 2341 admission records reviewed, 588 harms were identified for a rate of 25.1 harms per 100 admissions. 14 involved harms that caused or contributed to a patient’s death, leading to a 0.6% hospitalization death rate due to medical error.
The dial hadn’t moved.
(Continue reading here.)