Improvement in Number of Medical Errors in U.S.
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'Unprecedented' Improvement in Number of Medical Errors in U.S. Hospitals

Probably the biggest news in the last week on the healthcare front is the report out of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS officials say that medical errors in U.S. hospitals went down 17 percent from 2010 to 2013.

That's 50,000 fewer deaths, according to Reuters reporters published in the Chicago Tribune, who quote CMS's Dr. Patrick Conway: "This is welcome news for patients and their families." Conway referred to the drop in medical errors as "unprecedented."

Medical Errors Third Leading Cause of Death

In related news, California Sen. Barbara Boxer sees medical errors as a problem we still need to address.

According to Eryn Brown with the Tribune, Boxer's office earlier this year published a report showing that hospitals in California have reduced medical errors, which tracks with the CMS report, but Boxer said that problems remain - hundreds of thousands of American patients still die every year as a result of medical mistakes, making these mistakes the third leading cause of death.

Common Medical Errors

Boxer's report details these common medical errors:

  • Injury from drug medication errors
  • Urinary-tract infections caused by catheters
  • Infections that travel through the bloodstream
  • Falls
  • Bedsores

Some California hospitals made real improvement in these areas. At Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley, Calif., staff assessed and assigned "fall scores" to patients to help them monitor those most at risk of falling.

But some California hospitals did not respond to Boxer's survey request - and Boxer called these hospitals out on it with a published list. "The public has a right to know what you're doing to address the third-largest cause of death in the U.S."

Hoping this Trend Keeps Up

Even though Sen. Boxer advocates for improved patient safety - which is certainly good and admirable and should be kept up - Conway's use of the word "unprecedented," in reference to the drop in medical errors as recently reported by the CMS, should not be ignored. It's a trend that should give us some hope for the future in terms of combating our third largest cause of death.

(Image credit: https:8mivkW//flic.kr/p/)

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