Monday, August 10, 2009

Medical Error Deaths Topic On Paltalk

An estimated 200,000 Americans will die needlessly from preventable medical mistakes and hospital infections this year, according to “Dead By Mistake,” a wide-ranging Hearst newspapers national investigation.

Despite an authoritative federal report 10 years ago that laid out the scope of the problem and urged the federal and state governments and the medical community to take clear and tangible steps to reduce the number of fatal medical errors, a staggering 98,000 Americans die from preventable medical errors each year and just as many from hospital-acquired infections.

“Dead By Mistake” is the result of an investigation conducted by Hearst newspaper and television journalists. Results can be found at

Eric Nalder, senior enterprise reporter for Hearst Newspapers, will join us on News Talk Online on Paltalk at 5:30 PM New York time today to discuss the findings.

Among the findings is the staggering statistic that more people die each month of preventable medical injuries than died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The annual medical error death toll is higher than that for fatal car crashes.

Among the key findings of the Hearst investigation:

· 20 states have no medical error reporting at all, five states have voluntary reporting systems and five are developing reporting systems;

· Of the 20 states that require medical error reporting, hospitals report only a tiny percentage of their mistakes, standards vary wildly and enforcement is often nonexistent;

· In terms of public disclosure, 45 states currently do not release hospital-specific information;

· Only 17 states have systematic adverse-event reporting systems that are transparent enough to be useful to consumers;

· The national patient-safety center is underfunded and has fallen far short of expectations;

· Congress approved legislation for “Patient Safety Organizations” as a voluntary system for hospitals to report and learn from errors, but the new organizations are devoid of meaningful oversight and further exclude the public;

· Hearst journalists interviewed 20 of the 21 living authors of “To Err is Human”—16 believe that the U.S. hasn’t come close to reducing medical errors by half, the primary stated goal of the report;

· New York’s reporting system has run out of money and staff—its last public report is four years old;

· The law mandating reporting in Texas expired in 2007, and funding ran out—a new reporting law has been passed, but no funds have been allocated;

· Washington State requires reporting, but doesn’t enforce that requirement—and the legislature failed to provide funds to analyze the results.

Ten years ago, the highly-publicized federal report, “To Err Is Human,” highlighted the alarming death toll from preventable medical injuries and called on the medical community to cut it in half—in five years. Its authors and patient safety advocates believed that its release would spur a revolution in patient safety. But Hearst’s “Dead By Mistake” reveals that the federal government and most states have made little or no progress in improving patient safety through accountability mechanisms or other measures. According to the Hearst investigation, special interests worked to ensure that the key recommendations in the report—most notably a mandatory national reporting system for medical errors—were never implemented.


Anonymous said...

The thing that critics miss is, for all of the foibles, there are many more successes. Can things go wrong? Can drs. and nurses mess up? Sure, they're humans, not demigods.

Going nationalized will not decrease the problem. In fact, it can only INCREASE inefficiency and problems.

-LD McLellan

Anonymous said...

According to the news release article, the Obama administration will not support mandatory reporting, relying instead on "incentives" and best practices knowledge.

Unfortunately, the only incentives I see are negative ones and all revolve around liability, litigation and ultimately malpractice insurance.

Since the President wants to "reform" health care in this country, this issue should be one part of the agenda.