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Each Year Billions Are Spent on Medical Mistakes

Just last week, the Health Affairs journal published a new study on medical mistakes- paying close attention to the cost of errors made during hospital stays. The study found that for every dollar spent on heath care, as much as 45 cents is spent making (and attempting to fix) medical mistakes.

In 1999, an Institute of Medicine report shocked physicians and patients when it revealed that almost 100,000 people die each year due to medical errors. Despite efforts over the last 10 years to significantly reduce fatalities related to medical errors, hospital mistakes continue to be made.

Another study looking at medical errors, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, revealed that 18 out of every 100 patients end up with further injury after being admitted to the hospital. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), hospital medical errors caused 187,135 deaths and another 6.1 million injuries in 2006 alone. In that one year, medical mistakes cost between an estimated $393 and $958 billion.

NCPA analyst Pamela Villarreal noted, “For every dollar that was spent in the health care system, about 18 to 45 cents of that dollar went to hurting someone.”

According to Health Affairs, the most expensive medical mistakes can be traced to surgical infections. In 2008, over 252,000 infections cost almost $3.36 billion. At a close second was the cost of pressure ulcers, or bedsores, with almost 375,000 reported cases costing $3.27 billion. For the most part, many infections and virtually all bedsore cases could be prevented with proper care in the first place. Other commonly expensive errors in 2008 included complications from non-cardiac implants, lower-back surgery and excessive bleeding during a procedure.

Researchers hope that findings from these various medical error studies will allow hospitals to create systems where safe practices are awarded, and that avoidable deaths and injuries are reduced.

Source: Medical Errors Cost Health Care System Billions


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