You go to the hospital for a routine surgical procedure that requires a one to two day stay. On day two you start running a fever and tests confirm you have a potentially life-threatening infection in your bloodstream called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus, otherwise known as the antibiotic resistant MRSA superbug. Luckily, after 15 additional days in the hospital, you recover and head home.
You are now part of a statistic – the 1 in 25 patients who receive a hospital acquired infection that is completely preventable.[i]
Medical errors cause more deaths annually in the United States than breast cancer, vehicle accidents or drug overdose. According to the British Medical Journal, it is the number three killer, responsible for an estimated 251,454 deaths in the U.S. in 2013.
As a society we have dedicated an entire month to breast cancer awareness, created seat belt laws and countless public service announcements and programs for drug prevention. Yet, we have done very little to improve or bring awareness of patient safety into our homes and communities.
The U.S. spends more on healthcare than other high-income countries but our healthcare system is the least effective. Medical errors are costly.
Current research shows medical errors may account for an estimated 400,000 preventable injuries in the U.S. per year, costing upward toward $1 trillion in quality-adjusted life years lost to patients who die from medical errors.[ii]
Who pays for these medical errors? The majority, some estimate 78 percent, of medical error costs is externalized onto patients, government and employers.[iii] Healthcare is one of the few industries not held financially accountable for preventable mishaps.
One answer to reducing health costs is improving patient safety. If government, hospitals, and patients work together to improve patient safety, millions of health care dollars and thousands of lives will be saved.
A national nonprofit group for hospital transparency and safety, The Leapfrog Group, recently released the Spring 2016 Hospital Safety Scores. In Michigan, 26 hospitals scored an “A”, 13 a “B”, 37 a “C”, three received “D’s”, and one scored an “F”. Based on State of Michigan hospital discharges in 2014, known medical errors accounted for $1.8 billion in health care costs and lost productivity.[iv]
The Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, part of Johns Hopkins Medicine, estimates that nationally 33,459 could be saved annually if “B-F” hospitals had the same patient safety results as “A” hospitals. In Michigan, if all the “B-F” hospitals became “A” hospitals for patient safety, an estimated 1,254 lives will be saved per year.
What can you do?
Advocate and Educate.
Advocate for yourself as a patient and on behalf of loved ones. Ask your doctor lots of questions. Take someone with you to appointments as your patient advocate. Parents and guardians need to speak up if they feel a child’s care is inadequate. An online research article in the April 2016 issue of JAMA Pediatrics proclaimed that 62 percent of reported safety incidences by parents were found to be medical errors.
Educate yourself and others on patient safety. Hospital errors may include accidents, medication mistakes and hospital acquired infections. Patient safety differs from patient satisfaction. You can be at a hospital that looks and feels like a five-star resort and still experience a medical error if the hospital is not performing up-to-par safety procedures. Lastly, know before you go. Research and explore all the various hospital and surgeon safety grading systems that are publicly assessable online.
For more information on hospital patient safety go to www.hosptialsafetyscore.org.
[iv] The Leapfrog Group Hidden Surcharge Calculator: http://www.leapfroggroup.org/employers-purchasers/hidden-surcharge-calculator.