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Senator's Report Suggests Progress Curbing Deadly Hospital Errors

Researchers who study patient safety say that hundreds of thousands of Americans die every year as a result of errors in care delivered in the nation’s hospitals. Depending on who is offering up the numbers, death estimates run anywhere from about 200,000 to 440,000 annually.

Making the numbers all the more disturbing is that these deaths are considered preventable. It would seem to beg the question, just what is the medical profession doing to acknowledge the problem, address it, and reduce wrongful deaths due to such hospital negligence?

One of the louder voices speaking about this subject belongs to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Back in February, Boxer sent letters to 283 acute care hospitals in her state asking for them to report on what steps they take to cut medical errors.

In April, she issued a report what she had heard from more than 100 responding facilities and urged similar action to be taken by hospitals nationwide. Then earlier this month, she issued an updated report suggesting that some progress is being made.

As one example, Boxer reported that a list of the nine most common medical errors now exists. According to the Partnership for Patients, these errors include:

  1. Adverse drug events.
  2. Catheter-related urinary tract infections.
  3. Catheter-related blood stream infections.
  4. Injuries and falls from immobility.
  5. Adverse obstetrical events.
  6. Bedsores.
  7. Infections at surgical sites.
  8. Blood clots.
  9. Ventilator-related pneumonia.

The report says all of the hospitals that responded confirmed taking steps of some kind to address some of the most common medical errors.

Despite the apparent progress, however, the report says more could still be done. Recommendations include:

  • Aligning any federal error reduction efforts with the Partnership for Patients list.
  • Speeding up federal efforts to improve quality measures.
  • Standardizing and requiring the recording of medical errors in electronic health records.
  • Ensuring adequate whistleblower protections for medical professionals.

Source: FierceHealthcare, “Updated medical errors report shows progress,” Zack Budryk, July 11, 2014