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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Experts: Patient harm still not being addressed

Fifteen years after the Institute of Medicine’s To Err is Human report, it’s still the same old story: Despite some efforts over the last few years to prevent patient harm, there is still not enough being done.

In fact, "Our collective action in patient safety pales in comparison to the magnitude of the problem," Dr. Peter Pronovost, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said to the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging a couple of weeks ago. Pronovost, along with other patient safety experts, testified to the subcommittee that patient harm is still not being sufficiently tracked by hospitals or health agencies.

Preventable patient harm is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., the experts said, at a pace of about 1,000 patients per day – and the cost a staggering $1 trillion per year. Medical errors also cause 10,000 serious complications per day, they said.

The testimony shows that, 15 years on from the IOM’s estimate that 100,000 patients die per year from preventable errors, very little has changed in regards to harm prevention. Ashish Jha, JD, of Harvard School of Public Health, testified that “the IOM probably got it wrong” and the 100,000 deaths per year is “clearly an underestimate.”

So where does healthcare go from here? How should hospitals and public health agencies get on board with tracking and reporting data? Boosting information technology is one recommendation from the panel. While adoption of electronic medical records has been promising, Jha said more effort must be made to use the systems for patient safety. He also recommended developing metrics and collecting data on patient harm, and for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect and monitor the resulting data.