A study published Tuesday in the BMJ reveals that medical errors resulting in death of patients are more common in the United States than previously thought. As much as 251,000 lives are lost every year as a consequence of fatal mistakes by nurses and doctors, which means that medical errors in hospitals and other health care facilities is the third leading cause of death in the country, after cancer and heart disease.
Based in these calculation published in the paper, nearly 700 people die every day. This cause of death is followed by respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer.
Martin Makary, lead author and professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in an interview that the category includes all kinds of incidents, from mala praxis to systemic complications such as communications breakdowns when patients are taken from one department to another, according to The Washington Post.
Makary added that people die from the health care they receive rather than the disease or condition for which they are being treated.
The patient safety research involves a deep analysis of studies by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality conducted between 2000 and 2008, among other large studies.
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Researchers say the health sector should embrace the same safety standards as those applied by the air travel industry
“There has just been a higher degree of tolerance for variability in practice than you would see in other industries,” said Kenneth Sands, head of health care quality at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School.
Sands used an airplane analogy to explain this. There is a standard way flight attendants act when providing their services to passengers, from the way they move around to the way they prepare them for flight.
Such a perfect standardization is not embraced in hospitals, Sands said, which makes it difficult to know exactly where medical errors are happening and how to solve the problem. He believes the government should address this issue and work alongside institutions to seek solutions for such an important situation that affects public safety.
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Makary used the same analogy to say that hospitals and other health care facilities should tackle the problem by learning from the way the Federal Aviation Administration conducts accident investigations.
Every pilot in the world, Makary pointed out, learns from previous investigations and the results are propagated widely. He remarked the importance of disseminating the results of investigations in the field of health rather than considering them as confidential proprietary information.
He added that the first step to fix the problem was measuring its magnitude and that researchers needed to study patterns across the country.
Source: Washington Post