When you think of preventable medical errors — which kill between 210,000 and 440,000 people every year — the image of a clinician moving quickly in a crowded ICU may come to mind. But it turns out, these situations don’t lead to that many more mistakes than primary care and outpatient settings.
According to a recent report from the World Health Organization, roughly 4 out of 10 patients globally are harmed in primary and outpatient healthcare, where the bulk of services are offered. Up to 80 percent of the harm was likely preventable, authors of the report, title “10 facts on patient safety,” note. “The most detrimental errors are related to diagnosis, prescription and the use of medicines,” they add.
What’s more, primary and outpatient errors directly contribute to the number of people admitted as inpatients. They account for 6 percent of hospital-bed days and 7 million admissions across the 36 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Some other interesting facts from the report:
1 in every 10 patients is harmed while receiving hospital care.
Nearly 50 percent of these adverse events are considered preventable. About 30 percent of them are associated with the patient’s death.
Adverse events due to unsafe care are a leading cause of death (possibly among the top 10) around the world.
According to recent research, roughly 134 million adverse events occur each year due to unsafe care in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries, resulting in 2.6 million deaths annually.
Investing in preventing medical errors costs much less than treatment due to harm.
Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. prioritized safety improvements in Medicare hospitals, saving $28 billion.
Diagnostic errors occur in 5 percent of U.S. adults in outpatient care settings.
In the United States, autopsy research shows that diagnostic errors contribute to 10 percent of patient deaths. Similarly, EMR data shows diagnostic errors account for 6 to 17 percent of all harmful events in hospitals.
Healthcare-associated infections affect up to 10 percent of hospitalized patients.
This stat drops to 7 percent in high-income countries and rises to 10 percent in low-income ones. Regardless of a country’s income level, appropriate interventions, like hand hygiene, can reduce HAI rates by up to 55 percent.
More than 1 million patients die annually from complications due to surgery.
Unsafe surgical care procedures cause complications in up to 25 percent of patients. Almost 7 million surgical patients suffer significant complications annually, 1 million of whom die during or immediately following surgery.
10 facts on patient safety, World Health Organization.
Last updated 11/19/2019.