The Kansas City Business Journal has an interesting short article this week about the continuing problem of medical errors at hospitals. Here are excerpts:
Today, surgeons can operate on a beating heart and use robotic arms to remove kidneys through belly buttons.
But even as medicine has advanced, the number of medical errors — conditions and injuries obtained in the hospital — has hovered around 1 million a year. These errors cost the system, especially hospitals, billions of dollars a year.
A study by independent health care ratings company HealthGrades concluded that conditions developed in hospitals resulted in more than 950,000 incidents, nearly 100,000 deaths and $8.9 billion in excess costs a year from 2006 to 2008.
A study published this year by the Society of Actuaries suggests that those numbers are a lot higher. It estimated that hospitals had more than 1.5 million medical errors in 2008, with the hefty price tag of $19.5 billion.
The cost of treatment and compensation for medical errors, those not attributable to surgical risks, falls to the hospitals’ bottom lines. This became especially true in 2008, when Medicare stopped paying for certain errors, such as falls, bedsores and surgical-site infections.
This year, The University of Kansas Hospital is requiring all employees to attend a four-hour patient safety class. Hospital officials said decentralized, egalitarian responsibility for patient safety has been key in reducing errors.
“Patient safety has to be everyone’s job,” said Tammy Peterman, COO and chief nursing officer at KU Hospital.