Preventable medical errors can be devastating to patients and their families, and it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans are affected each year.
According to a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine, as many as 98,000 people die every year in the United States from preventable medical errors. If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed a cause of death category for preventable medical errors, it would be number six on the list of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S., ranking above diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. In 2003 alone, there were 181,000 severe injuries due to medical negligence.
The primary preventable medical errors the National Patient Safety Foundation warns consumers of include:
Health care-acquired infections (HAI)— An HAI is an infection a person gets while receiving medical treatment. The most common types are pneumonia, catheter-related bloodstream infections and surgical site infections (SSI).
Medication errors— Such errors occur when a patient receives the wrong medication or the incorrect dosage of a medication. Medication errors are very common and harm approximately 1.5 million Americans every year.
Diagnostic errors— These errors occur when a diagnosis was wrong, missed or delayed. Many diagnostic errors are due to equipment failure, flaws in communication or failure to communicate, or an overreliance on common symptoms by a medical professional.
Wrongsite surgery— Sometimes operations are performed on the wrong part of the body or on the wrong person. In rare cases, patients have even received the wrong surgery! Wrong-site surgery can cause victims to suffer serious injury or die.