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One Out of Seven Medicare Patients Affected by Medical Mistakes

A new study from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) found that medical errors happen to one of every seven hospitalized patients on Medicare. These medical mistakes cost the federal government over $4.4 billion and cause about 180,000 patient deaths each year - many deaths that could be prevented.

Hospitalization Errors with Medicare Patients

The DHS report noted that in one month alone, October 2008, over 134,000 Medicare patients experienced a problem with a hospital stay - ranging from a temporary health setback to death. Of those hospitalization errors, 44 percent of them were "clearly or likely preventable."

The study found that most of Medicare patients' medical malpractice problems stemmed from a variety of issues, including:

  • Medication errors, including those that lead to excessive bleeding
  • Patient care errors, such as intravenous fluid overload
  • Surgical errors
  • Infections

DHS's study also found that the most serious errors, such as surgery on the wrong patient, amounted to less than 1 percent of the medical mistakes.

Focusing on Solutions

The takeaway from the DHS study is the importance of improving procedures to prevent medication errors and other medical mistakes.

American Hospital Association's Vice President Nancy Foster noted, "Hospitals and doctors and nurses are focused on preventing harm. But as this report suggests, we do have a ways to go before we are where we want our performance to be."

In response to the report, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Dr. Donald M. Berwick said CMS would strive for more oversight and possibly provide financial incentives for hospitals to reduce errors. The goal is to monitor such medical mistakes and prevent future ones from occurring.

Sources: Mistakes Chronicled on Medicare Patients

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