Medical errors still claim 100K lives per year

Up to 100,000 Americans die every year due to preventable medical errors, a new study out today in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds. That finding echoes the conclusion of the landmark 2000 Institute of Medicine report which first brought the issue to the industry's attention. Plenty of progress has been made, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, but nationwide the death rate remains essentially unchanged. Researchers blame the complexity of health systems, a cultural unwillingness to admit errors on the part of doctors and an insurance reimbursement system that can have the unintended effect of rewarding errors.

Study co-author Lucian Leape notes that errors have been reduced significantly in some areas since the IOM report, which is an encouraging sign. "The medical community now knows what it needs to do to deal with the problem. It just has to overcome the barriers to doing it."

For more on the Harvard study:
- see this story from USA Today