Patient Safety, Medical Error Rates Are Stagnating, Experts Tell Senate

Patient safety advocates called for more regulatory and operational oversight to curb medical mistakes during a Senate hearing convened by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on July 17.

Sanders called for the hearing, which was held by the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, to bring more awareness to the incidence of preventable medical mistakes, Modern Healthcare reported. During the hearing, Sanders referred to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Patient Safety that concluded that the number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm to patients may be closer to 400,000 per year.

Dr. Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, a Harvard School of Public Health professor, testified that US hospital patients are no safer today than they were in 1999 when the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) released its report “To Err is Human.” The IOM report estimated that the number of deaths due to preventable errors was 98,000 per year.

“We have not moved the needle in any demonstrable way overall,” Jha said. “No one is getting it right consistently.”

Other panelists pushed the Senate committee to consider legislative activities focused on healthcare safety and suggested that the government create oversight agencies akin to the National Transportation Safety Board or the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure consumer safety, Modern Healthcare reported.

In August of 2013, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Joint Commission released a safety plan to address patient safety concerns with the use of electronic health records.

When the plan was announced, Farzad Mostashari, MD, ONC head at the time, said that, “When implemented and used properly, health IT is an important tool in finding and avoiding medical errors and protecting patients. This Plan will help us make sure that these new technologies are used to make health care safer.”

Click here to watch or listen to a recording of the Senate hearing.


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