Errors in the delivery and administration of health services kill thousands of Americans every year, according to a report appearing April 13 in the Los Angeles Times. A recent study published in the journal Health Affairs noted that one in three hospital patients suffered an adverse event, including the administration of the wrong medication, the acquisition of an infection or receiving the wrong surgical procedure.
Some famous malpractice cases have included the amputation of the wrong leg. It's rare, but it happens.
The just-announced initiative appears to cost about $1 billion dollars, but the goal is to reduce the number of harmful conditions identified as being preventable by as much as 40 percent. The program also seeks to cut hospital readmissions by 20 percent.
"Those are big goals," said Dr. Don Berwick, a leading national advocate for patient safety who oversees the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs. "But the results for patients and families will be dramatic—millions of people…suffering less, tens of thousands of deaths averted, and anguish and worry decreased beyond measure."
An error may be all in a day's work for a hospital employee. However, when a medication mix-up occurs or the wrong surgical procedure is performed, the results can be life changing or even life taking for the patient and often results in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Most will remember actor Dennis Quaid, testifying before Congress last year after his infant children were given adult-strength heparin in error. The twin newborns barely survived.
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An equal amount—$500 million—is to be spent in the testing of models designed to reduce nine types of medical errors ranging from surgical site infections to complications from childbirth.
Sorrel King hopes that such an initiative would prevent the kind of medical error that resulted in the death of her daughter, Josie. "We can't keep going at the pace we are going," she said in a statement, in reference to the status quo before the initiative was announced.
It is hoped that the just-announced effort will improve the overall health of Americans and reduce medical errors—and medical malpractice—without cutting services.