Hospitals are bad for your health

Add this to the list of reasons a hospital might not be the best place for patients to seek care. Hospitals kill an estimated 180,000 patients a year due to adverse events, according to a report released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General.

The OIG report offers the first statistically valid national incidence rate for adverse events among hospitalized patients who are Medicare beneficiaries, officials said.

In other findings:

  • About one in seven Medicare patients--or about 134,000 of the estimated 1 million discharged in October 2008--were hurt by hospital care.
  • Another one in seven Medicare beneficiaries experienced adverse events during their hospital stays that resulted in temporary harm.
  • Hospital care that led to adverse events and temporary harm cost Medicare an estimated $324 million in October 2008.
  • The most common adverse events were related to medication, patient care, surgery and infection.
  • 44 percent of adverse and temporary harm events were clearly or likely preventable.

 The study was based on a nationally representative sample of 780 Medicare patients discharged from hospitals in October 2008.

The findings suggest that not much progress has been made since the seminal 1999 Institute of Medicine report on medical errors gave a boost to patient safety efforts. "What more do we have to do to make sure that sick people can rest assured that they're not going to be harmed by the care they're getting?" said Arthur Levin, director of the independent Center for Medical Consumers who contributed to the IOM report.

In response to the report, CMS said it would aggressively expand the scope and definition of patient safety efforts to address more types of adverse events. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's take was that adverse events affected hospital patients at an "alarming rate."

The OIG report calls for CMS to fortify the Medicare hospital-acquired condition policy by including more errors that harm beneficiaries and give hospitals more incentives to cut the incidence of adverse events with payment penalties.

To learn more:
- read the report from the Office of the Inspector General
- here's the New York Times article
- read the USA Today article

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