Adverse surgical events are frequent and costly

Adverse events in surgery are the most frequent and costly type of medical error occurring in hospitals, according to statistics from the National Patient Safety Benchmarking Center, a repository of data on adverse events. The data were collected and analyzed by Tampa, FL-based Safety-Centered Solutions (SCS). The top five most frequent adverse events — surgery, medication errors, medical (nonsurgical treatment), patient falls, and nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections — account for 67% of the total events in the databank. The top five most costly adverse events — surgery, medical (nonsurgical treatment), nosocomial infections, medication errors, and pressure ulcers — make up 81.5% of the total costs in the database.

"Recent attention has been focused on the prevalence of medication errors and their impact on patient safety and health care costs," says David Spencer, the CEO of SCS. "Our findings indicate that there are several types of adverse events that are at least as frequent and costly as medication errors."

The national database

Adverse events in surgery account for nearly 20% of events in the national database; medication errors make up 16%; medical (nonsurgical treatment) account for 14.8%; patient falls make up 8.8%; and nosocomial infections round out the top five most-frequent adverse events with 7.5%. According to SCS’ National Patient Safety Benchmarking Center, the five most costly adverse events are: surgical errors, comprising 31% of the costs; medical (nonsurgical treatment), 16.6%; nosocomial infections, 13.8%; medication errors, 11.7%; and pressure ulcers, 8.3%.

For the past nine years, SCS has been collecting and analyzing data from hospitals nationwide in order to ensure that its National Patient Safety Benchmarking Center contains accurate and complete information.