Fatal medical errors are in decline, but still shockingly common

Nearly half a million people per year die as a result of preventable medical errors such as improper monitoring, adverse drug interactions, infections and surgical error. As dire as this may sound, however, experts say that the situation is improving.

A report published last year in the Journal of Patient Safety estimated that 440,000 preventable deaths occur each year due to medical mistakes and negligence. The good news is that, according to a survey released this spring, nearly one out of every three U.S. hospitals has improved its performance by 10 percent or more since 2012.

The survey was conducted by the Leapfrog Group, a non-profit organization that advocates for improvements in hospital safety and quality. Many of the hospitals that reported improvements in patient outcomes during the survey period had implemented new preventative measures such as improved hand-hygiene procedures and pre-surgery antibiotic regimens.

The Leapfrog survey is not the only source saying that things are looking up for hospital safety. In fact, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that bloodstream infections declined dramatically — by 44 percent — between 2008 and 2012. Additionally, a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that overall hospital-acquired complications dropped by about 9 percent between 2010 and 2012.

Although hundreds of lives have been saved as a result of these improvements, the unfortunate truth remains that thousands more die each year as a result of preventable infections, surgical errors and other forms of negligence in the medical setting.

People who have suffered complications or lost a loved one due to medical negligence are encouraged to set up a consultation with an attorney. A lawyer with experience representing victims of medical malpractice can advice these individuals of the options that are available to them and will guide them through the process of pursuing compensation should they decide to move forward with a legal claim.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, “Hospitals Make Progress on the Path to Safety,” Katherine Hobson, Aug. 13, 2014