Preventable Deaths from Medical Mistakes Underestimated

When the Institute of Medicine estimated the number of preventable deaths attributable to medical errors at 98,000 per year in 2000, health industry analysts were alarmed.
Yet, the most recent estimate based on a meta-analysis of four studies published between 2008 and 2011 put the number between 210,000 and 440,000 per year.
According to the Clinical Advisor, “So John T. James, PhD, of Patient Safety America, performed a literature review and identified four studies that relied on the Global Trigger Tool, which flag specific evidence in medical records such as medication stop orders or abnormal laboratory results, that potentially point to adverse events that may have harmed a patient.
Based on a weighted average from the four studies, and taking into account limitations in search capability and incompleteness of medical records, James estimated the true number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm to patients is more than 400,000 per year. This would make medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States, after cancer and heart disease.”