After mining and correlating multiple national data bases, Betsy Lahue and colleagues found believable evidence that 1 of every 400 U.S. hospital injections results in avoidable error. While that number seems low, that means the average hospital can experience 25 accidents a day. While the vast majority of these events don't necessarily lead to significant patient harm, the financial toll adds up to more than $5 billion in additional expense.
While $5 billion may not impress the thousands that make up the sophisticated DMCB readership, they also know that there are no simple and single trillion-dollar-coin-type answers to the long-term challenge of rising health care costs. Bending the curve will ultimately involve multiple solutions that include utilization management, payment reform, tort reform, care management, consumerism, attacks on fraud and abuse and and emphasis on increasing medical quality. That also means reductions in all types of medication errors.
The DMCB really likes Lahue et al's paper because most hospitals should be able to replicate much of this study's methodology using their own data bases. That means they can establish a baseline ("25 errors a day") and work to reduce it. In the meantime, if CMS is truly interested in giving taxpayers their money's worth, they'll also be able to use this information to track this nationally and, perhaps, use it to develop additional value-based purchasing initiatives.
And patients and their families? Next time they're at the business end of a needle in a hospital, they should wonder if that's one of the 25. While they're doing that, they should also ask what the local error rate is and what's being done to reduce it.
Image from Wikipedia