New Study Questions Results of 1999 Institute of Medicine Report on Medical Errors
A study published in Tuesday's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine calls into question the methodology of a "highly publicized" 1999 Institute of Medicine report that found medical errors lead to an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 patient deaths in the Unites States each year, the New York Times reports. The IOM report has often been cited as justification for investment in computer physician order entry systems and other technologies to reduce medical errors. In the new study, Dr. Eric J. Thomas and colleagues at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School asked physicians review 500 medical records of hospitalized patients in Utah and Colorado in 1992 to measure the "accuracy of chart review" in the determination of adverse medical events. The study found that doctors "could be wrong almost a third of the time, depending on what rules they used" (Nagourney, New York Times, 6/4). For example, the study found that the number of reported medical errors dropped when researchers increased the number of reviewers from one to three and required reviewers to be "highly confident" that an adverse medical event resulted from negligence. As a result, the study concluded that the number of annual deaths attributed to medical errors in the United States could range from 50% fewer to 30% more than the number in the IOM report, which researchers based on a review of patient medical records (Thomas et al., Annals of Internal Medicine, 6/4). For more iHealth & Technology stories, visit iHealthBeat.org, a new Web publication sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.