Monday, May 18, 2009

Factoid: more Americans are killed every year by preventable medical mishaps than breast cancer or AIDS

From an Economist special report on health care and technology, April 18th, 2009

A report by the Institute of Medicine estimated that up to 100,000 Americans are killed each year by preventable mishaps such as wrong-side surgery, medication errors and hospital-acquired infections—a larger number than die from breast cancer or AIDS.

Flying Blind, The Economist, April 16th 2009

The story continues:

Sometimes such errors can be prevented without fancy technology. It helps to write “not this leg” on a patient’s left leg before surgery on his right leg. When Kaiser Permanente’s innovation laboratory looked into errors in medication dosage, it found that a lot of them were due to interruptions. Now nurses preparing complex medications wear “do not disturb” sashes, which has caused errors to drop noticeably. A striking study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that surgical errors and complications fall by one-third if hospitals use a simple safety checklist before, during and after surgery.

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