Visit a hospital and your life is on the line–and not just because of the condition that brought you there in the first place.
A new study finds that medical mistakes may be up to 10 times more common than previously thought, affecting up to a third of all patients admitted to hospitals.
Using a new method of tracking medical mistakes, the Institute for Healthcare Improvements’ Global Trigger Tool, teams of nurses and pharmacists examined the charts of 795 patients at three major U.S. hospitals that were supposed to have "well-established operational patient safety programs," according to the Los Angeles Times.
When they found something that set off warning bells–such as a stop- medication order, the use of an antidote or problems with a lab test–they brought in a physician to review the chart to see if he could find evidence of an error.
And those docs must have been real busy: They found 354 adverse events in those 795 charts, including medication errors, hospital-acquired infections and surgical mistakes–affecting a third of all admissions, according to the study in Health Affairs.
You want to know what’s really frightening? The study also found that the usual methods can miss 90 percent of all medical mistakes: The federal government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Indicators only spotted 35 errors in those same records.
Not surprisingly, voluntary reporting detected just four mistakes.
Some doctors are complaining that the new tool is too critical… but that’s just a cop-out, because other studies have made it abundantly clear that far too many mistakes are being made.
One study last year found that medical mistake contribute to some 15,000 Medicare deaths every single month. (Read about it here.) Another study, in 2009, found 200,000 deaths each year due to medical mistakes, while yet another study found 400,000 preventable drug-related injuries every year.
Put it all together, and it means you need to watch doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers like a hawk: Ask questions about every med you’re given, make sure no one comes near you until you’ve seen them wash their hands, and insist that catheters come out as early as possible since they’re among the top sources of hospital-acquired infections.
And before you go into the hospital, make sure your loved ones know to watch over you when you’re not able to–or you’ll risk becoming one of these statistics yourself.
Edward Martin is a health journalist who writes about today's most pressing health issues. He chronicles the most cutting-edge alternative methods for beating everything from diabetes to cancer and reports on the latest FDA foul-ups and Big Pharma conspiracies.