Recent declines in hospital errors

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

New York residents may benefit from learning more about statistics related to fatal medical errors. Researchers have found that when physicians adhered to a standardized checklist and improved communications, the number of hospital errors declined by 25 percent. Since 2010, the number of hospital-acquired conditions has been 1.3 million less than the previous annual average. The decline in the number of avoidable hospital-acquired conditions was led by fewer bed sores, pressure ulcers and adverse drug events.

A federal review released on Dec. 2 reported a 17 percent decline from 2010 to 2013 in preventable errors, including bed sores, drug mistakes and infections. According to the reports, less than 50,000 patients were killed, resulting in a $12 billion savings in health care costs. The report identifies some potential contributing factors, but the direct causes of the recent decline remain largely unknown. Some of the incentives provided by the Affordable Care Act, including financial penalties, public reporting on errors and technical help, were credited for the decline.

The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claimed that the results were a sign of the improvements in the quality of care provided for patients and an indication that healthcare funds were being used more efficiently. The study did indicate that 10 percent of the patients still experience some sort of harm, disability or death. Most hospital-acquired conditions, such as surgical site infections, bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections and adverse drug events, are considered to be avoidable.

Patients who suffer an injury due to a medical error may benefit from obtaining legal counsel to determine whether a medical malpractice action is warranted. Lawyers may be able to investigate the incident and help identify any of the parties who may be culpable for the damages.

Source: CBS News, “U.S. hospitals making fewer deadly errors, study finds“, December 17, 2014

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