Health Grades released the results of their annual patient safety survey today. The results are unfortunate; medical error is still persistent and there's a sizeable gap between the top and low performing hospitals. Among the findings:
• Medicare patients going to hospitals ranked among the top 15 percent in terms of patient safety incidents had, on average, 43 percent lower incidence of patient safety incidents compared bottom-ranked hospitals
• If all hospitals performed at the level of the top 15 percent, 280,134 fewer patient safety incidents and 44,153 fewer deaths among Medicare patients would have occurred, saving $2.45 billion during the years 2002 through 2004
• Approximately 82% of the 304,000 deaths were "potentially preventable"*
• Approximately 1.24 million total patient safety incidents occurred among the nearly 40 million hospitalizations under the Medicare program over the years 2002, 2003 and 2004. That compares with 1.18 million over the previous three-year period, and 1.14 million over the years 2000, 2001 and 2002
Pretty dismal stats.
The good news is that high performing institutions who made concerted efforts to reduce error saw results, and have an average of 43% less errors.
Bottom line: we've got a long way to go on patient safety, but when efforts are made, they work. Our challenge will be how to get enough money for the bottom performing hospitals to make better safety efforts. Unfortunately, when your ER is constantly on the verge of closing, it's hard to scrape up extra funds to reduce error.
*this sample is Medicare patients. These patients are probably more likely to die from error than a general population sample. But the number of errors should be generalizable.