If you live in the America, you have a higher chance of dying from a mistake during surgery than from the disease the surgery was intended to cure.
Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States — behind only heart disease and cancer which are at the top of the list. Patient safety experts from Johns Hopkins estimate that medical mistakes are responsible for over a quarter million deaths each year in hospitals, claiming an average of nearly 700 lives a day or 9.5% of all deaths in the country. Medical errors can also include misdiagnosis and absence of a safety net.
Put another way, receiving poor care is now a bigger killer than accidents, strokes and Alzheimer’s.
According to the Johns Hopkins team, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently use an outdated coding system that fails to include medical error in national death statistics, resulting medical errors being underreported.
“Top-ranked causes of death as reported by the CDC inform our country’s research funding and public health priorities,” says Martin Makary, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Right now, cancer and heart disease get a ton of attention, but since medical errors don’t appear on the list, the problem doesn’t get the funding and attention it deserves.”
By using more comprehensive measures of hospital-related deaths, the team from Johns Hopkins added accuracy to the issue and ranked medical mistakes higher on the lowly list.
Medical errors aren’t a one-size-fits-all issue; anything from a bad doctor to bad communication between departments can trigger a preventable death. Incidences of some hospital-acquired infections have been falling since 2008 as campaigns specifically targeted bacteria in healthcare environments.
With more effort aimed at standardizing and improving America’s medical system at large, more lives can be saved.