Minnesota first to report errors under federal rule

Twenty patients died in Minnesota hospitals over 15 months from medical errors or oversights, according to a new report released recently by the state health department. Minnesota is the first state to report its medical errors mistakes under standards developed by the National Quality Forum, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit group. New Jersey and Connecticut also adopted the standards, and other states are considering them.

The causes of the errors reported by Minnesota included falls, faulty medical equipment, and administering the wrong medication, the state health department said. The report documented 99 serious errors between July 1, 2003, and Oct. 6, 2004. The most common problem not resulting in death or disability was doctors leaving foreign objects such as surgical sponges inside patients at the end of operations. The Minnesota report included 31 such instances.

St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth reported the most deaths due to medical errors, with four — a fall, a medication error, a malfunctioning medical device and a burn. Three patients died after medical errors in Mayo Clinic facilities in Rochester and Mankato, including two who received incorrect medications and one apparently healthy patient who died after an operation.

In a 1999 report, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 44,000 to 98,000 Americans die annually because of medical mistakes. Since then, 22 states have adopted laws requiring hospitals to report serious mistakes, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.