Home E-Weekly July 22, 2014

Hospitals Aren't Getting Safer, Experts Tell Congress

Published: July 21, 2014

Are patients in U.S. hospitals safer than they were 15 years ago, when the Institute of Medicine estimated that preventable events were responsible for up to 98,000 deaths a year?

"The unfortunate answer is no," Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, told a U.S. Senate subcommittee last week. "We have not moved the needle in any demonstrable way overall. No one is getting it right consistently."

Dr. Jha, a Harvard School of Public Health professor, was one of several speakers invited to the hearing, convened by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who chaired the health and aging subcommittee.

Recent reports have suggested that the 98,000 annual deaths estimated in the report, "To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System," may be far too conservative. A study published last year in the Journal of Patient Safety concluded that the number is likely closer to 400,000 a year. The author of that study, John James, PhD, was among the speakers.

Experts assert that what's needed to improve the situation are data, metrics and monitoring systems that provide accurate comparisons on outcomes; accountability and incentives that encourage providers to focus on safety; and a healthcare equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration or National Transportation Safety Board.

Jim Burger

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