Posted by: Chris Maloney | March 25, 2012

AARP Report On Hospital Harms. 44% of Patients Beware.

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In its wisdom the AARP has decided I am old beyond my years and deserve to receive their bulletin.

The following is based on their reporting.  If you have an issue with the numbers, they are all based on medline reports.

AARP Article in March 2012 Bulletin On American Errors

I’m a great fan of Harper’s Index, and I’ll jot down a few facts collected by the AARP about hospital errors.

In 1999, The Institute of Medicine published a report called To Err Is Human that listed 100,000 Americans died from preventable hospital mistakes.

A report released in January, 2012 found that hospital staff did not report 86% of harms done to Medicare patients.  Those harms never make it into the statistics.

Even so:

One in seven Medicare patients suffered serious or long-term injuries or died as a result of hospital care.

Of those 44% were due to preventable errors.  (I didn’t do my math wrong.  Keep reading).

Of all patients entering a hospital at three major hospitals one in three were harmed.

The number of patients who die each year from hospital errors is equal to four jumbo jets crashing each week.

We now have 136,000 medical diagnoses.

We have 6,000 different drugs.

There are 4,000 different medical and surgical procedures.

The Obama administration will spend $1 billion to fund safety measures to help reduce errors.

1500 lives were saved when ICUs began using a checklist to handle cardiac catheters.

One half of hospital workers follow hand washing guidelines.

Ok, of that list, which statistic stands out?

It should have been “86% of harms are not reported.”  Now let’s do the math again.  If the reports are correct (and I’ve already seen howling about the To Err Is Human Report) then the following is true:

100,000 preventable deaths represent only 14% of the harms done to patients.  The real amount of harm would be in the range of:  700,000 preventable deaths.

One in seven Medicare patients is roughly 14%.  If 86% of the harms are unreported, then almost all the Medicare patients received some harm.

Based on that staggering statistic, 44% of Medicare patients are harmed by a preventable cause in the hospital.  That matches the statistic of one in three patients harmed in major hospital based on hospital records, although since that was underreported by 86% it seems plausible that most people are harmed in some way by entering the hospital.

So the real question is:  how many people are harmed because hospital staff still can’t wash their hands?

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