Despite Safety Measures, Hospital Safety is not Improved

A new study published on Thanksgiving Day in the New England Journal of Medicine and reported on the front page of the NY Times notes that hospital safety has not improved in the last ten years in spite of an effort to implement safety measures.
The study focused on 10 North Carolina hospitals from 2002 to 2007 and found that harm to patients was common and the number of medical errors did not improve over time. Frequent hospital safety issues included hospital acquired infections, surgical complications and drug errors.
“It is unlikely that other regions of the country have fared better,” said Dr. Christopher P. Landrigan, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. The study is the first of its kind since a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine found that 98,000 people die each year from medical errors in the United States.
According to the NY Times article, “Among the preventable problems that Dr. Landrigan’s team identified were severe bleeding during an operation, serious breathing trouble caused by a procedure that was performed incorrectly, a fall that dislocated a patient’s hip and damaged a nerve, and vaginal cuts caused by a vacuum device used to help deliver a baby.”
The study found that 18% of patients were harmed by medical care. Of those harmed, 63% of the errors were determined to be preventable.