Do you know what the leading causes of death are in the United States? Number one is heart disease. Number two is cancer. And, according to new research, number three is medical error. The study, published in the BMJ estimates 251,000 people die every year due to medical errors at hospitals and other health care facilities. That's more than respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer's.
According to the study's author, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University:
"It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care."
National Patient Safety Foundation President Dr. Tejal Gandhi (@TGandhi_NPSF) joined Jim on Wednesday night to discuss the new research, and solutions. Gandhi said she was not surprised to hear about this new study. Since 1999, they've estimated close to 100,000 patient deaths a year due to medical error. And "these kinds of errors could happen anywhere," she said.
"There's many different types of medical error," said Gandhi. "Usually if you look at an error, there's multiple things that went wrong to lead to it." Gandhi also discussed the culture of fear in the industry when talking about errors. "It's really important to be able to openly talk about errors, because then we can learn from them and improve."
They discussed changes to the industry to reduce the number of medical error deaths. Gandhi said that one area for improvement is better measurement of the harm. "Then you can start to understand causes," she explained.
She also said that changes to the culture will help lower deaths. "We've really worked to change the culture so that it's not about blame and punishment," said Gandhi. "Human beings are always going to make errors, and we need to have systems that catch those errors."
Gandhi also suggested that when someone is sick, "having an advocate there, and asking questions all the time” is vital.