When you consider what causes the most deaths in the United States every year, there are several things that come to mind. Illnesses are certainly one of them. We know that heart disease is the number one cause of death, followed by cancer. However, the third cause of death for Americans was just revealed in a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, and it’s not car accidents or strokes. What it is, is horrifying.
The study shows medical errors in hospitals are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming more than 251,000 lives every year. That’s a total of 700 deaths each day and 9.5 percent of the deaths that occur each year. What’s worse is a large portion of these deaths are in fact preventable.
Medical Errors Have Become an Epidemic
A report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called preventable medical errors an “epidemic” in 1999 and evidence from the study is proving this statement was entirely correct. At this point, more patients are dying from the treatment they receive, not the disease or injury they were initially being treated for.
According to a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professor of surgery, these fatal preventable medical errors range from bad doctors and subpar treatment to systemic issues, such as failures in communications between medical departments and prescription mix ups. What’s worse is since the IOM report was released seven years ago, little improvement has been made in the way of preventing medical errors.
Hospitals Need to Do More to Prevent Medical Errors
When a medical error occurs, hospitals typically launch an internal investigation. However, no information is shared in regards to how the medical error occurred and how to prevent it from happening again. As a result, other hospitals make the same medical errors across the nation and nothing is done to nationally prevent any type of medical error. The director of health-care quality at a Harvard Medical School affiliate has offered The Washington Post a solution: Transparency and a widespread dissemination of all information found in investigations following a medical error. For example, if an aviation accident occurs, the investigation is shared nationally or even internationally and every pilot learns from the mistakes made. However, hospitals consider their investigation reports confidential proprietary information and do not share any steps they are taking to prevent these accidents in the future.
Hospitals need to become better organized in spreading awareness on how to prevent medical errors, while at the same making improvements to communication between departments and cracking down on discipline to medical professionals who make those errors.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28