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Hospital Errors are the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S., Says Study

Published on Oct 14, 2013 at 8:01 am in Medical Malpractice.

A new study suggests that U.S. hospitals have a serious problem with medical staff making serious and preventable errors.

This fall, an article in The Journal of Patient Safety estimated that “the true number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm to patients was estimated at more than 400,000 per year.”

This new study makes a strong case that previous estimates of this problem were mistakenly low. An earlier study had pegged the number at 98,000, but the new research presents compelling evidence that the prior study used inaccurate research methods.

The new study initially found that preventable errors contributed to the deaths of 210,000 hospital patients annually. They then determined that the real number actually doubles if you factor in errors where treatment should’ve been provided but wasn’t.

The new number of about 400,000 per year puts medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease and cancer.

While the American Hospital Association suggests that the earlier estimate of 98,000 is still accurate, independent patient safety researchers have concluded that the new study’s methods were credible.

What Can You Do?

The Journal of Patient Safety article suggests that hospitals and medical staff need to fully engage patients and their advocates during hospital care, and make efforts to seek the patients’ input in identifying harms. It also suggests that hospitals adopt policies that encourage transparency where harm does occur, to allow correction of the root causes.

Patients and their advocates would be wise to ask questions, and be persistent in getting your needs addressed.