Medical errors account for over 210,000 deaths each year

A new study, which is displayed in the current issue of "Journal and Patient Safety," indicates that somewhere between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die each year from preventable hospital care issues.

The estimates were based on the findings of four recent studies, which analyze records of adverse events. Adverse events are identified by medical professionals as harm suffered by patients, which could have been prevented. The data was collected through a screening method called the Global Trigger Tool. This technology searches medical records and sorts out cases involving error, injury or infection. In the studies, medical files were flagged with this tool and subsequently reviewed by physicians.

The four studies examined the medical records of more than 4,200 patients hospitalized between the years 2002 and 2008. Analyzing this data, researchers have discovered adverse events in 21 percent of reviewed cases and a fatality rate of approximately 1.4 percent.

Of course, the trigger method does not catch medical errors concerning treatment that should have been provided but was not. This is because the records are lacking this information and diagnostic errors are not included. This means that the numbers are probably higher than what is projected from the trigger analysis.

Preventing medical errors in the future

With such startling numbers, what can the health care field do to prevent medical errors - especially fatal ones? For one, some professionals believe that the finger should be pointed at hospital systems and not the individual doctor. Specifically, redesigning overall procedures and protocols might help prevent fatal errors.

Scholars note that many treatment-related errors are caused by poorly designed systems. Many structures do not have internal safeguards. Instead, they often depend on existence of perfect, error-free humans. Therefore, it might help to reorganize, update and upgrade medical systems so that they can utilize important backup techniques.

Another way to prevent medical problems would be to create a medical system that encompasses superior patient-doctor relationships. The current medical scheme is designed in a way that limits the voice of the patient. However, if patients speak up more often, perhaps some medical errors can be avoided. The problem is that patients do not know when it is necessary to relay information. If hospitals work on better communication practices among doctors and patients, perhaps fewer medical errors will arise.

The recent numbers suggest that medical errors may be one of the leading causes of fatalities in the country. As a result, it is time to take a step back and revaluate current arrangements. If you or a loved one has been harmed in a serious medical accident, take the time to speak with a qualified medical malpractice attorney in your area.