Your Health Care May Kill You: Medical Errors

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2017:234:13-17.


Recent studies of medical errors have estimated errors may account for as many as 251,000 deaths annually in the United States (U.S)., making medical errors the third leading cause of death. Error rates are significantly higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the United Kingdom (U.K). At the same time less than 10 percent of medical errors are reported. This study describes the results of an investigation of the effectiveness of the implementation of the MEDMARX Medication Error Reporting system in 25 hospitals in Pennsylvania. Data were collected on 17,000 errors reported by participating hospitals over a 12-month period. Latent growth curve analysis revealed that reporting of errors by health care providers increased significantly over the four quarters. At the same time, the proportion of corrective actions taken by the hospitals remained relatively constant over the 12 months. A simulation model was constructed to examine the effect of potential organizational changes resulting from error reporting. Four interventions were simulated. The results suggest that improving patient safety requires more than voluntary reporting. Organizational changes need to be implemented and institutionalized as well.

Keywords: Medical errors; adverse drug reactions; error reporting systems.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospital Administration / methods
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control
  • Medication Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Organizational Innovation*
  • Patient Safety
  • Pennsylvania
  • Risk Management / organization & administration*