Berwick error estimate challenged

The critically-minded have been asking questions about the reliability of quality statistics for years. Since the 1999 Institute of Medicine report estimating that 98,000 patients die a year from preventable medical errors, for example, many skeptics have wondered if the numbers might not be--to put it bluntly--a well-intended exaggeration.

The Wall Street Journal wonders if the recent successes of Don Berwick's Institute for Healthcare Improvement 100,000 lives campaign--a quality initiative success story--may have been overhyped. Berwick's claim that hospitals have been able to save 120,333 lives by implementing a series of simple quality measures was been widely reported in the media. "I think there's been a tendency in the errors business to first overstate the size of the problem, and now, I'm afraid, to overstate the effect of interventions on the other side," comments VA researcher Lawrence, a frequent critic of error estimates.

- check out this article from The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)

PLUS: For a quick refresher on the science that started it all, go take a look at a brief of the Institute of Medicine's landmark 1999 "To Err is Human" report.