A 1999 study from the Institute of Medicine stated that 98,000 individuals die yearly because of medical errors. However, data for these findings originated in 1984. As a result, John T. James, Ph.D., examined more recent studies for Patient Safety America to determine more accurate figures. The results – more than four-fold the 1998 numbers – were published at the end of September.
Published in the Journal of Patient Safety, the study found that medical errors may total to 400,000 to 425,000 per year. In terms of deaths, it comes in after cancer and heart disease.
Investigators looked at such preventable adverse events (PAEs) as errors of commission, omission, communication, context, and diagnostic errors from four recent studies, using the “Global Trigger Tool,” for medication stop orders and abnormal test results. They found at least 210,000 deaths, but admit that limitations and incomplete results place actual amounts at 400,000 or higher.
Nevertheless, this particular study only shows part of the full picture and ramifications associated with medical errors. A few weeks before these findings were published, the Harvard School of Public Health calculated the total of all adverse health events resulting from medical errors.
Globally, the figure comes out to be 43 million. The researchers looked at data from 4,000 articles published over the past few decades and the World Health Organization’s epidemiologic studies, looking for seven common negative outcomes: injuries from medications, catheter-related urinary tract infections, blood stream infections, hospital-acquired pneumonia, blood clots in veins, falls, and bed sores. An error’s impact was based on “disability-adjusted life years.”
What was somewhat surprising, medical errors, particularly those associated with medications, increase in high-income countries. Drug-related errors, including the wrong medication or a negative reaction, topped the list, with blood clots coming in after deaths.