Mortality Rate From Medical Errors Has Not Decreased Since 2000, Report Says
As many as 98,000 U.S. residents continue to die annually because of medical errors, despite "an unprecedented focus on patient safety" after the release of a 2000 Institute of Medicine report on the issue, according to a report published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, USA Today reports.
The new report, written by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, said that some hospitals have made significant improvements in patient safety over the past five years. Improvements include the installation of computerized physician order entry systems, the addition of pharmacists to medical teams and the use of team instruction in the delivery of newborns, the report said.
However, the report said that the "pace of change is painstakingly slow," and the mortality rate from medical errors "has not changed much" in the past five years, USA Today reports. According to the report, 5% to 8% of intensive care patients on ventilators develop pneumonia, although hospitals could almost eliminate the problem with bed elevation, medications and periodic breathing rests.
"We have to turn the heat up on the hospitals," report co-author Lucian Leape, a Harvard School of Public Health professor and patient safety researcher, said, adding, "The medical community now knows what it needs to do to deal with the problem. It just has to overcome the barriers to doing it."
The report said that such barriers include the complexity of health care systems, lack of leadership, the reluctance of physicians to admit medical errors and a health insurance system that reimburses providers for additional services required because of errors but not for preventive care.
"We really need to rethink how we pay for health care," Leape said, adding, "What we do now is pay for services, but what we should do is pay for care and outcomes." Leape recommended that health insurers pay 20% bonuses to hospitals with no infections among ICU patients -- a move that he said would "cut costs substantially" (Weise, USA Today, 5/18).
An abstract of the report is available online.