Medical errors in hospitals are a serious problem. A 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine reports that up to 98,000 Americans die every year from medical mistakes in hospitals. In fact, medical errors are the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. That’s more deaths than from car accidents, breast cancer and AIDS. We know that hospitals are busy and complex places. Every day, hundreds of patients are receiving hundreds of different treatments and operations. It’s no surprise that medical errors happen in America’s hospitals. But, there is good news! Hospitals are taking steps to prevent these errors.
One of the report’s main conclusions is that the majority of medical errors do not result from individual recklessness or the actions of a particular group--this is not a “bad apple” problem. More commonly, errors are caused by faulty systems, processes, and conditions that lead people to make mistakes or fail to prevent them. For example, stocking patient-care units in hospitals with certain full-strength drugs, even though they are toxic unless diluted, has resulted in deadly mistakes. Thus, mistakes can best be prevented by designing the health system at all levels to make it safer--to make it harder for people to do something wrong and easier for them to do it right. Of course, this does not mean that individuals can be careless. 1
In response to the Institute of Medicine report, coalitions have been formed to help address patient safety issues. These coalitions have diverse memberships and include health care plans, health care providers, employers, and unions. One influential national coalition is the Leapfrog Group. The results of the 2004 survey can be found at (www.leapfroggroup.org). On a more local level, the Michigan Health and Safety Coalition (www.mihealthandsafety.org) has broad representation from Michigan stakeholders and supports the activities of the Leapfrog Group. Each year the Michigan Health and Safety Coalition invites Michigan hospitals to complete a safety survey. This survey assesses the activities of each hospital in many areas related to patient safety. The results of the 2004 survey can be found at www.mihealthandsafety.org/2004_consumer/default.htm
Patient safety is everyone’s concern. The PHP participating hospitals are active in taking steps to ensure that patients get the care they need, while reducing the chance of being harmed by a medical error. PHP is a partner with them on this goal.
1 To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System (2000) Institute of Medicine Report Brief