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Patient Safety Facts

Section 23

Patient Safety Facts

40,000 Incidences of Harm Occur in U.S. Hospitals Every Single Day


Patient safety is a serious public health issue.


The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) estimates that 15 million incidents of medical harm occur in U.S. hospitals each year.


This estimate of overall national harm is based on IHI's extensive experience in studying injury rates in hospitals, which reveals that between 40 and 50 incidents of harm occur for every 100 hospital admissions.


With 37 million admissions in the United States each year, this equates to approximately 15 million harm events annually - or 40,000 incidents of harm in U.S. hospitals every day.


IHI defines "medical harm" as unintended physical injury resulting from or contributed to by medical care (including the absence of indicated medical treatment) that requires additional monitoring, treatment or hospitalization, or results in death.

Pictured Below:

Joshua Nahum with caregivers,

Helen Haskell with her son Lewis

Blackman, Alicia Cole

Medical Errors Cost Medicare $8,800,000,000.00 Resulting in 238,337 Preventable Deaths of Medicare Patients


In their fifth annual Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study, HealthGrades Inc. cites that errors in treatment resulted in 238,337 potentially preventable deaths of Medicare patients in the U.S., costing $8.8 billion.


HealthGrades Inc. analyzed over 41 million patient records for the study and found that approximately 3 percent of all Medicare patients suffered from some medical error - which equates to about 1.1 million Patient Safety Incidents (PSIs) from 2004 - 2006.


In the report, HealthGrades describes medical errors as, “The failure of a planned action to be completed as intended or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim … (including) problems in practice, products, procedures, and systems."


There were 270,491 actual hospital deaths that occurred among patients who developed one or more of 16 PSIs and the report states that using previous research, they calculated that 238,337 of these were attributable to patient safety incidents and potentially preventable.


Americans Continue to Experience Medical Mistakes


Consumers Union conducted a poll of more than 2,000 Americans to learn about their experiences with health care - associated infections, preventable medical errors and preventive care.


  • Almost 1 in 5 (18%) say they or an immediate family member have experienced a dangerous infection following a medical procedure.
  • 69% of these respondents said they had to be admitted to a hospital or extend their stay because of these infections.
  • 1/3 of the Americans surveyed report that medical errors are common in everyday medical procedures.
  • 13% have had their medical records lost or misplaced.
  • 9% have been given the wrong medicine by a pharmacist when filling their doctor's prescriptions.


Office of Inspector General Says Almost 14% of Hospitalized Medicare Patients Experienced Adverse Events


Almost fourteen percent of hospitalized Medicare patients experienced adverse events during their hospital stays, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General. The report also found that an additional 13.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries experienced events during their hospital stays that resulted in temporary harm.


Physician reviewers estimate that 44 percent of all events were preventable. Preventable events were linked most commonly to medical errors, substandard care, and lack of patient monitoring and assessment. The researchers recommend greater oversight as well as financial incentives to improve care and reduce errors. (Source: The Office of the Inspector General, November 2010)

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