New Study Draws Attention to Common Patient Safety Threat

In early May, a report in the British Medical Journal showed that medical errors are the third leading cause of death among American patients. However as it was a retrospective analysis, conducted before new patient safety initiatives and technologies existed in hospitals, many question the validity of this study’s main claim. In a special Fox News segment, reporter Bill Hemmer investigated whether the statement about medical errors is valid, and what solutions may exist today to help curb medical errors moving forward.

Organizational Collaboration

To accurately gauge patient safety and medical errors at hospitals across the country, Fox News believes the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should collaborate with state health agencies to collect data and help share this data with the public. As this latest research clearly demonstrates, medical errors are an area that needs further exploration and increased public awareness. Accurate and more widespread reporting on this topic could benefit patient decisions about their health, and would also encourage transparency and action on behalf of hospitals. For an example of how Brigham & Women’s hospital is already committed to transparency to reduce medical errors, check out our blog.

In the area of drug diversion, this type of reporting will also be valuable in the long-term implementation of tools that better track and prevent this occurrence. As a primary threat to patient safety, increased reporting on hospital medical errors and enhanced communication between facilities across state lines could help curb national diversion rates and doctor shopping on the part of patients. This is only one area that could benefit from improved organization collaboration.

Raising Awareness

While questions about this study remain, the researchers are drawing attention to a common but unrecognized problem. Medical errors, whether involving communication gaps, medication errors, and failure to follow-up with a patient are more common than expected in the U.S. given the number of technological innovations and training resources that exist to support clinical excellence.

In their investigation, Fox News first sought to identify a definition for medical errors as used in this study – what is included or excluded based on the researchers’ findings. Additionally, as the data included information stretching back to 1999, the reporters also examined the threat of medical errors to patient safety looking forward. Many expected electronic medical records to decrease medical errors, as providers have more information available when making care decisions, but has this actually been the case?

Combined, the initial research in the British Medical Journal and the follow-up analysis by Fox News serves to create greater public awareness about a problem that has been threatening patient safety for decades. As the rates of medical errors decrease due to new technologies, widespread knowledge around this topic also helps patients better arm themselves to ensure they are receiving the highest level of medical care.

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