Patient Safety Week – Day One

In honor of Patient Safety Week, all of our blog posts this week will be related to medical malpractice and patient safety. To start, we want to give you some idea of the size of the problem and then we will examine some of the most common types of preventable medical errors and conclude the week with some steps you can take to protect yourself and your family. But, first the scope of the problem.

So how bad is it? A 2013 study by the Journal of Patient Safety estimated 400,000 Americans die each year due to preventable medical errors.   Think about that for a minute. That is the equivalent of the entire populations of Murfreesboro, Brentwood, Franklin, Gallatin, Hendersonville and Clarksville dying each year from preventable medical errors.   Staggering, to say the least.

These preventable errors do not just cost the patients and their families. According to the Journal of Health Care Finance, these medical errors are estimated to cost Americans nearly $1 trillion per year due to additional medical costs, shortened life spans and loss of productivity. 

Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of these numbers is the fact that the problem is getting worse instead of better (or alternatively, we have become better at detecting and reporting it). In 1999, one study estimated medical errors caused 98,000 deaths per year. In 2010, the number had risen to 180,000. And now, the estimates are 400,000. While there have been significant break throughs in medical technology and pharmaceuticals, one thing has not changed. And that is this: patient care must be administered by humans.   For this reason, it is unrealistic to think that preventable medical errors will be completely eliminated. But, it is definitely not unreasonable to expect improvement.