Medical mistakes can have profound and life-altering repercussions – both for patients and their families. According to a recent review of studies involving more than 300,000 patients, medical errors result in injuries for just over 1 out of every 10 patients. What’s more, half of those errors are deemed preventable, and at least 12% resulted in a catastrophic injury or patient death.
Though the new study drew from data internationally, its findings are particularly relevant to the U.S., where providers and patients alike continue to battle issues concerning the quality of American health care, as well as numerous medical malpractice lawsuits.
The study is also raising questions about systemic failures to correct known problems – as it comes 20 years after a landmark Institute of Medicine report which found medical errors were responsible for nearly 100,000 patient deaths in the U.S. each year.
About the Study
In what’s hailed as one of the largest studies ever conducted on the severity and frequency of patient injuries, researchers from the University of Manchester combed through statistical reports and data from 70 different studies. Those studies contained information involving adverse health effects experienced by nearly 340,000 patients, most of whom were adults.
Findings from the new study were significant, and include:
- Of the 337,025 patients included in the study, over 28,000 suffered harmful effects as the result of medical errors, nearly 15,500 of which were preventable.
- Of the harms reported in the study, almost half were regarded as “mild,” 36% as “moderate,” and 12% “severe,” a category which includes patients who suffered permanent disabilities, or who died as a result of medical mistakes.
- The types of harm suffered by patients also varied; 49% of patient injuries were attributed all incidents involving medications and other therapies, 23% to surgical procedures, and 16% to infections and complications arising from diagnostic errors, including misdiagnoses and failures to diagnose.
While jarring, the findings are a sobering reminder that the U.S. health care system continues to struggle with high rates of adverse health outcomes. Unfortunately, as researchers note, medical mistakes the likes of medication errors, surgical mistakes, post-operative care errors and infections, and diagnostic errors (including failures to diagnose) can and often do have severe, permanent, or fatal consequences.
The silver lining to medical literature reviews such as this recent study is that they can provide considerable insight into the scope of persistent problems with health care quality, as well as the impetus for needed change.
Though there’s no easy fix to eliminating all medical errors in the U.S., experts have identified a number of tools and approaches that can serve as much-needed solutions. These include:
- Improvements with patient / staff communication;
- Consistent management and oversight;
- Better technology, including tech that ensures faster responses in emergency situations;
- Increased transparency about medical errors, and collaboration among providers who access public registries in order to compare their quality of care with other institutions;
- Encouraging patients to take an active role in their health care, such as by asking questions, making checklists, and ensuring physicians and other medical professionals explain themselves adequately.
Legal Action After a Medical Error
Even as U.S. hospitals shift their policies and internal procedures in their attempts to mitigate the potential for medical errors, risks will always remain – especially when doctors and other providers fail to meet the duty of care they owe their patients.
At The Becker Law Firm, our legal team has earned national recognition as a leading medical malpractice and birth injury law firm. Based in Cleveland, we represent injured patients and families across Ohio and the entire U.S. following all types of preventable harms caused by medical negligence.
If you have questions about a potential case and how our award-winning attorneys can help, call (440) 252-4399 or contact us online for a free consultation.