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Federal Government Report Touts Declining Medical Errors

The federal government recently released a report suggesting that the incidence of medical errors in U.S. hospitals has declined in recent years. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) specifically examined the number of hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2013.

The HHS report concluded that an estimated 50,000 fewer patients died in hospitals due to efforts to curb these preventable conditions, which include adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line associated bloodstream infections, pressure ulcers, and surgical site infections.

“Preliminary estimates for 2013 show that the national hospital-acquired condition rate declined by 9 percent from 2012 to 2013 and was 17 percent lower in 2013 than in 2010,” the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services report stated. “We estimate that approximately 800,000 fewer incidents of harm occurred in 2013 than would have occurred if the rate of hospital-acquired conditions had remained steady at the 2010 level.”

Medication errors, which include administering the wrong drug or the wrong dose, decreased 40 percent, according to the report. The number of patients with pressure ulcers (commonly referred to as bedsores) decreased 20 percent, while catheter-associated urinary tract infections dropped 15 percent.

Of course, there is still work to be done. As the report acknowledged, “The 2013 hospital-acquired condition rate of 121 hospital-acquired conditions per 1,000 discharges means that almost 10 percent of hospitalized patients experienced one or more of the hospital-acquired conditions we measured. That rate is still too high.”