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Medical Mistakes: Worse Than We Thought?

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Five years ago, the Institute of Medicine issued a startling report that acted as a
wake-up call to hospitals, health care providers, and patients: As many as 98,000
people die each year in hospitals in the United States from infections, drug mix-ups,
and other mistakes–mistakes that could have been prevented.
Two of the authors of that report recently published a follow-up article in the
Journal of the American Medical Association. Unfortunately, their conclusion was that
progress in improving the medical community’s safety record in malpractice cases has
been slow. They did suggest that the pace of change in patient safety will likely
increase in the areas of implementation of electronic health records, implementation of
new safe practices, team training, and a requirement of full disclosure to patients
following an unintended medical injury.

While we wait five or more years for these improvements, we can arm ourselves
now with knowledge. There has been a large amount of online information so that
people can be smart consumers when it comes to finding top doctors and safe
hospitals.
For a broad overview, try the Federal Agency for Health Care, Research and
Quality (www.AHRQ.gov). This website has an extensive section on medical errors,
including fact sheets on how family members and individuals can prevent medical
errors in children and adults. AHRQ also has a link to the Patient Safety Network.
Here you can view abstracts and some full text of medical journals and news articles
pertaining to patient safety, as well as finding out about meetings pertaining to patient
safety. There is also a link to a AHRQ journal that features actual cases of medical
errors.
Finally, if you are looking for the top hospitals in America, go to the website for
U.S. News and World Report (www.USNews.com) and go to the link for “best
hospitals”.