Intravenous news: Medpage today report “The annual cost of measurable medical errors is at least $17 billion, but the “social” costs are as high as $958 billion each year, which is nearly half of all U.S. healthcare spending in 2008, according to two separate studies published in Health Affairs.
The two studies are part of a special theme issue on quality improvement and were presented here Thursday during a Health Affairs briefing. The first study, authored by Jill Van Den Bos, a consultant with Milliman in Denver, Colo., focused on “the $17.1 billion problem” of medical errors by analyzing a national sample of medical claims data from 2000 through 2008. Van Den Bos and colleagues calculated the most common types of medical injuries and figured out the likelihood that a particular type of medical injury was caused by a medical error.
For instance, the probability that a postoperative infection or a pressure ulcer was caused by a medical error was greater than 90%. Postoperative infections and pressure ulcers are the two most common and most costly medical injuries caused by medical errors, the researchers said. The overall most common cause of medical injury — an adverse drug reaction — has less than a 10% probability of being caused by a medical error, the study authors said.
“Although adverse drug effects occur frequently, most are assumed not to result from medical error,” the authors wrote.
They found 10 types of medical errors accounted for more than two-thirds of total costs of errors. In order, they were postoperative infection; pressure ulcer; mechanical complication of a noncardiac device, implant or graft; postlaminectomy syndrome; hemorrhage complicating a procedure; infection due to a central venous catheter; collapsed lung; infection following an infusion, injection, transfusion, or vaccination; complications from an internal prosthetic device, implant or graft; and abdominal hernia.
Most medical injuries are caused by relatively straightforward medical services, not a complex medical procedure, the authors said.”