Fatalities due to medical errors likely underreported

Although a groundbreaking 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report suggested that between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors, recent studies suggest that the real number is likely much higher, according to patient safety expert Lucian Leape, adjunct professor of health policy at Harvard School of Public Health and a member of the committee that issued the IOM report.

“The big problem is that you can’t just rely on people reporting when things go wrong,” Leape said in a July 5, 2013 video interview on MedPage Today. “You have to have a more reliable method of picking it up. It’s expensive, and most hospitals aren’t very motivated to do that, frankly.”

Still, there have been significant improvements in patient safety, Leape said, citing the elimination of bloodstream infections from central lines, hand hygiene, and surgical time-outs. “We never do any of this as well as we’d like…but we’ve made a lot of progress,” he said.

Watch the MedPage Today interview

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