Policy Insight, Volume 3, Issue 2, April 2009

Improving Patient Safety: Addressing Patient Harm Arising from Medical Errors

by Anna-Marie Vilamovska, Annalijn Conklin

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Patient harm arising not from a patient's underlying condition but from medical errors that occur during patient care is a leading cause of disability and death: Approximately 10 percent of hospitalized patients experience a medical error while receiving care, and such errors are estimated to result in at least 44,000 deaths and $17 billion annually in direct health care costs, disability, and productivity losses in the United States alone. On the bright side, patient studies from several countries indicate that as much as half of the harm caused by medical errors can be reduced if established protocols and evidence-based practices are followed. In Improving Patient Safety: Addressing Patient Harm Arising from Medical Errors, the authors summarize their analysis of how implementing system-level approaches to reducing medical errors can reduce patient deaths, incidents of permanent disability, and hospital stays. These estimates show the strong potential of patient safety systems to reduce the harms associated with medical errors.

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