The Toll of Preventable Errors: How Many Dead Patients?

Brian’s Note: Those of you unfamiliar with Michael Millenson, a genuine but often under-appreciated health care thought leader, may be interested in his 1997 tour de force, Demanding Medical Excellence, which was called a best health care book of the year. Also see his forceful 2003 piece, The Silence, which reviewed the health industry’s progress on safety since the release of the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 To Err is Human report.

Michael Millenson

Posted 3/09/12 on The Health Affairs Blog

©2012 Health Affairs by Project HOPE – The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc. 

Here’s a quiz for Patient Safety Awareness Week (and after): The number of Americans who die annually from preventable medical errors is:

A) 44,000-98,000, according to the Institute of Medicine

B) None, thanks to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s “100,000 Lives Campaign”

C) 90,000

D) No one’s really counting

The correct answer is, “D,” but I confess it’s a trick question. With a slight twist in wording, the right answer could also be “C,” from an as-yet-unpublished new estimate with a unique methodology. (More below.) The main point of this quiz, however, is to explore what we actually know about the toll taken by medical mistakes and to dispel some of the confusion about the magnitude of harm.

Continue reading “The Toll of Preventable Errors: How Many Dead Patients?”