Heart disease and cancer are easily the top two causes of death in the United States, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The third leading cause of death, contributing more than one-quarter of a million fatalities a year, is medical errors. The study calculated that 9.5 percent of deaths in this country, or 251,454, were the result of mistakes made by doctors, nurses and other health care workers. The prominent position of medical mistakes may come as a surprise to many, as the health care industry works hard to downplay their prevalence.
Medical testing equipment is a significant investment. Hospitals and clinics purchasing this equipment face substantial pressure to justify the expense by keeping the machines busy. This requires a steady stream of patients getting tested for various health conditions. Some clinics have responded to this pressure by advertising the tests directly to the public, without waiting for a physician to recommend the tests based on actual symptoms. The problem with this is that testing is not a no-risk proposition. Besides the worthless expense for many people, there are health risks to undergoing many medical tests. That risk is only acceptable when there are actual medical signs that the underlying problem may exist.
It's an uncomfortable and common experience among patients: leaving a clinic or a doctor's office and not feeling reassured, but rather feeling uncertain about the diagnosis and proposed treatment. Maybe the doctor didn't fully explain something, or maybe the patient was reticent to ask a question.
In the last 15 years, studies of U.S. hospitals have revealed a disturbing frequency of patient deaths resulting from medical mistakes that could have been prevented. According to a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, the annual number of deaths caused by preventable hospital errors was estimated to be as high as 98,000.
Patient safety may take a back seat to the realities of the health care culture in the United States. Preventable medical errors have been identified as the third leading cause of death in the country, according to a study conducted by Patient Safety America. The study estimated that medical mistakes may kill as many as 440,000 people every year. Addressing these mistakes has been complicated by the reluctance of hospitals, doctors and other medical providers to be open about errors and to report them when they do occur. Not only are doctors and nurses unwilling to report their own mistakes, they may feel pressure to hide the mistakes of their fellow health care professionals.
Most people realize that there is a possibility they will not get a good result when going to a hospital. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to identify when the bad result was caused by preventable medical error. Doctors and hospital staff are not always forthcoming about mistakes that cause a patient harm. According to recent research from Johns Hopkins University, some errors are almost never reported to the affected patient.
Going to a hospital with one medical problem and acquiring one or more problems while there is hardly an unusual occurrence. Hospital acquired infections are a common problem in certain health care facilities. Some of the most common pathogens are antibiotic resistant and have been known to cause serious medical problems, even death. One of the measures often employed to stop the spread of infections in a hospital is the use of sterile gloves and medical gowns by doctors. A recent study suggests that those measures are not effective in stopping the spread of all bacterial infections.
The recent estimate regarding fatal medical errors should serve as motivation for people interested in patient safety. There were roughly 34 million hospital admissions across the United States last year. Given the estimate provided by the Journal of Patient Safety of 210,000 to 440,000 deaths caused by medical errors, that translates to a 0.6-1.3 percent fatality rate for those being admitted. Dr. Nina Radcliff, a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists believes that the safety gains in another industry could serve as a model for improving medical safety. She believes that an approach adopted by the airline industry could help reduce the number of preventable deaths in the medical field.
Several studies have been conducted to understand the scope of medical mistakes in the U.S. health care industry. Recent research suggests the problem is much larger than previously thought. It suggests that medical mistakes are the third most common cause of death in the country, following heart disease and cancer. According to the research appearing in the Journal of Patient Safety, medical errors cause somewhere between 210,000 and 440,000 deaths every year. That covers situations where a mistake leads to preventable harm contributing to the death of the patient.
According to a study appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, surgical errors can greatly increase the profit margin for the hospitals where they are committed. The research was conducted using data from more than 34,000 surgical patients who were operated on in selected Texas hospitals in 2010. The study looked at Medicare patients, privately insured patients, Medicaid patients, patients who paid out of pocket and patients using other forms of payment.