Hospital Errors and Adverse Events Declined Last Decade: Study

The rate of hospital errors and adverse events dropping suggests that many hospital complications are preventable, federal researchers said.

The findings of a new study suggest the overall safety of hospitalized patients has improved significantly over the past decade, resulting in fewer complications, infections and other problems caused by medical errors.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) indicate hospital errors and adverse events dropped dramatically since 2010 for the four most frequent causes of hospitalization, according to findings published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The cross-sectional study involved a review of data on 244,000 adults hospitalized in 3,156 US hospitals between 2010 to 2019, using data from the Medicare Patient Safety Monitoring System. Researchers focused on hospitalizations for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, and other major surgeries, which are the most common conditions leading to patient hospitalization.

Researchers found statistically significant decreases in the annual rates of in-hospital adverse events for all four conditions. Patients suffered fewer medication errors, hospital-acquired infections, pressure ulcers, serious falls, and side effects linked to any medical or surgical procedures during the 10-year study.

The number of adverse events suffered by patients being treated for acute myocardial infarction dropped from 218 to 139 per 1,000 patients from 2010 to 2019. Similarly, the rates for heart failure dropped from 168 to 116 per 1,000 patients; for pneumonia the rates dropped from 195 to 199; and for surgical procedures complication rates dropped from 204 to 130 per 1,000 patients hospitalized.

The rate of adverse events for all other conditions remained unchanged at 70 per 1,000 patients from 2010 to 2019.

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DHHS researchers determined hospitals became safer during the study period, leading to fewer side effects and medical complications. Researchers said the data indicates many of the problems were preventable to begin with, and that’s part of the reason the rates dropped so significantly.

The drop was also most likely due to advances in medicine as healthcare continues to improve. Additionally, efforts put into place to monitor patients closely, prevent mediation errors and oversee other preventable side effects have led to improvements, while in-hospital programs focused on reducing complications and infections also have been implemented widely in the past decade.

“Further research is needed to understand the extent to which these trends represent a change in patient safety,” the researchers wrote.

While DHHS researchers noted the decrease indicates significant improvement, they argue there is still more changes to be made.

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