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Adverse Events Frequently Occur in Hospitals
Adverse Events Frequently Occur in Hospitals

(November 29, 2007 - Insidermedicine) As many as one-tenth of people admitted to hospital in the United Kingdom experience harm as a result of medical errors, according to a study published in Quality and Safety in Health Care.

Here are some facts about the safety of hospital patients:

•    In developed countries, medical errors occurring in hospitals are estimated to cause harm to about 10% of patients. They are believed to occur much more often in the developing world.

•    One of the most common ways of being harmed in hospital is to pick up an infection. To prevent this, hospital staff should ensure they change gloves or wash their hands thoroughly when moving from patient to patient.

•    In developed countries, errors related to surgical procedures are a common cause of avoidable harm to hospitalized patients.

Researchers from the University of York in England looked at the records of over 1,000 patients who were admitted to a large teaching hospital over a six month period in 2004. They looked for adverse events that occurred in these patients and assessed whether these events were caused by hospital errors and whether they were preventable.

The investigators identified 87 patients who experienced negative health events that were likely to be caused by hospital errors, which translates to nearly 9% of all the patients whose records they examined. Among these events, nearly one-third were considered to be preventable. Fifteen percent of these negative events caused the patients impairment or disability lasting at least six months, and 10% contributed to the patient’s death. The adverse events also lead to an average increase in hospital stay of eight days.

Although this research took place in only one hospital, the researchers believe that it is a good representation of what occurs throughout the UK. These findings highlight how common hospital errors are and how much harm they can cause patients.

For Insidermedicine in Depth, I'm Dr. Susan Sharma.