The issue of medical errors in hospitals may be much larger than previously thought. According to a new study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, medical errors are responsible for the deaths of more than 250,000 Americans each year, accounting for 9.5 percent of all annual deaths in the United States and ranking as the third leading cause of death in behind heart disease and cancer. To put this in perspective, more deaths are caused by medical errors annually than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes. This is a considerable increase over the estimates stated in the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) 1999 report To Err is Human, which estimated that medical errors were responsible for a much lower 98,000 deaths per year.
Medical errors can include any of the following:
It is truly frightening to see that so many people are dying from the care they receive rather than the conditions they sought treatment for in the first place. But why has this issue gone largely unnoticed throughout the medical community and the public eye? According to Johns Hopkins professors Martin Makary and Michael Daniel, the leaders of the research, the issue may be due to a lack of accountability and reporting procedures. As it stands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not require medical errors to be indicated in the data it collects regarding deaths – making it extremely difficult to see what is happening on a national scale.
The medical industry also has a high tolerance for variability in practice when compared to other industries. There is no set standard for care that all hospitals must follow, creating a much higher margin for error. Makary and Daniel suggested that errors could decrease if hospitals were subject to a much stricter reporting system, similar to the way the Federal Aviation Administration has a thorough and standardized approach to accident investigations. Makary added, "When a plane crashes, we don't say this is confidential proprietary information the airline company owns. We consider this part of public safety. Hospitals should be held to the same standards."
Check out the original article published in The Washington Post for more information on this story.
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