Posted by Salvatore J, Zambri, founding member and partner.
A new study just published by patient safety researchers reveals that “medical errors in hospitals and other health care facilities are incredibly common and may now be the third leading cause of death in the United States — claiming 251,000 lives every year, more than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s.”
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine shocked the medical establishment by reporting that preventable medical errors caused as many as 98,000 deaths each year. Later studies by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Reaserch and Quality were also used by the recent Johns Hopkins research and concluded that the total for preventable medical error deaths is closer to 251,000, about 9.5% of all deaths annually in the United States.
According to the health-care quality director at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (an affiliate of Harvard Medical School), not much has changed since the IOM 1999 study, except an improvement in hospital-acquired infections. Researchers for the recent Johns Hopkins study conducted their analysis not to just total the death statistics but to advance discussion about the problem and to suggest ways that the problem can be addressed.
In a comparison to the way that the FAA treats aviation incidents, several suggestions for how hospitals should approach errors include:
- Develop standardization in hospital procedures (lack of standardization makes finding and fixing errors difficult);
- Involve the government in determining how to cordinate national standardization;
- Study and investigate medical patterns nationally that may be causing deaths;
- Disseminate information about investigations widely (instead of citing privacy or proprietary information);
- Report the number of severe patient injuries resulting from medical error, not just deaths;
- Modify Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting requirements to require reporting of errors. (Current data reporting through billing codes collected does not require error reporting.)
As the number of deaths due to preventable medical errors continues to increase, more needs to be done to actually prevent those errors. A first step is acknowledgement by the medical world that a real problem exists, instead of hiding the truth. Without meaningful change, more innocent lives will be needlessly lost.
About the author:
Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him “Trial Lawyer of the Year.” Super Lawyers recently named him among the “Top Ten” lawyers in the Metro Area (out of more than 80,000 attorneys). He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a “Big Gun” and among the “top 100″ lawyers in the entire metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as “one of Washington’s best-most honest and effective lawyers” who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners. His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of “The Best Lawyers in America” by Best Lawyers (2014 edition) and has been repeatedly named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyer magazine (2014) – national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.