More than 250K die each year from preventable medical errors

by Jay Pate

A new survey finds that 73% of patients worry about medical errors and 30% know someone personally who has experienced a medical error.

Experts agree that mistakes are happening every day in every hospital in the country. Hospital staff fails to verify a patient’s identity and treats the wrong patient. Patient gets sicker while waiting for care in a mismanaged emergency room. Surgeon cuts into the wrong side of a patient’s body. Tubes get confused and medicine meant for the stomach goes into the chest. A patient is mistakenly given the wrong drug or the wrong dosage. Every year there are hundreds of thousands of preventable medical errors at American Hospitals. Medical errors kill more than 250,000 people in the United States yearly.

According to a new Wolters Kluwer Health survey, nearly one third of Americans, 30 percent, report that either they or a family member or friend have experienced a medical mistake. Medical mistakes include being given the wrong medication, dosage or treatment. In addition, more than one in five Americans report having been misdiagnosed by their doctor and almost half report having received an incorrect bill from their healthcare provider.

Nearly three quarters of Americans, 73%, say they are concerned about medical errors. Nearly half, 45 percent, report being “very concerned” about such errors.

Asked why they believe most medical mistakes occur, more than one third listed miscommunication among hospital staff as the top reason. The next most common reasons cited include doctors and nurses being in a hurry, staff being fatigued, and hospitals experiencing staffing shortages.

Other findings include:

  • 19% delayed having a procedure for a day when the doctor may be more focused or rested (i.e. not scheduling on the weekends or late in the week).
  • 18% have asked a doctor/nurse to wash their hands
  • Women (87%) are more likely than men (81%) to have made an effort to minimize medical mistakes.
  • More than half (55%) of those between the ages of 35 and 54 report that they have received an incorrect healthcare bill

An executive summary of the survey findings is available from Wolters Kluwer Health.