Nav: Home

Medical error is third biggest cause of death in the US, say experts

May 03, 2016

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the US after heart disease and cancer, say experts in The BMJ today.

Martin Makary and Michael Daniel at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore say death certificates in the US have no facility for acknowledging medical error, and they call for better reporting to help understand the scale of the problem and how to tackle it.

Currently, death certification in the US relies on assigning an International Classification of Disease (ICD) code to the cause of death - so causes of death not associated with an ICD code, such as human and system factors, are not captured.

According to the World Health Organization, 117 countries code their mortality statistics using the ICD system, including the UK and Canada.

As a result, accurate data on deaths associated with medical error is lacking, but recent estimates suggest a range of 210,000 to 400,000 deaths a year among hospital patients in the US.

Using studies from 1999 onwards - and extrapolating to the total number of US hospital admissions in 2013 - Makary and Daniel calculated a mean rate of death from medical error of 251,454 a year.

Comparing their estimate to the annual list of the most common causes of death in the US, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggests that medical error is the third most common cause of death in the US.

They acknowledge that human error is inevitable, but say "although we cannot eliminate human error, we can better measure the problem to design safer systems mitigating its frequency, visibility, and consequences."

They believe strategies to reduce death from medical care should include three steps: making errors more visible when they occur so their effects can be intercepted; having remedies at hand to rescue patients; and making errors less frequent by following principles that take human limitations into account.

For instance, instead of simply requiring cause of death, they suggest that death certificates could contain an extra field asking whether a preventable complication stemming from the patient's medical care contributed to the death.

Another strategy would be for hospitals to carry out a rapid and efficient independent investigation into deaths to determine the potential contribution of error.

Measuring the consequences of medical care on patient outcomes "is an important prerequisite to creating a culture of learning from our mistakes, thereby advancing the science of safety and moving us closer towards creating learning health systems," they add.

"Sound scientific methods, beginning with an assessment of the problem, are critical to approaching any health threat to patients," they write. "The problem of medical error should not be exempt from this scientific approach."

And they call for "more appropriate recognition of the role of medical error in patient death to heighten awareness and guide both collaborations and capital investments in research and prevention."
-end-


BMJ

Related Heart Disease Articles:

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.
Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.
Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.
Women once considered low risk for heart disease show evidence of previous heart attack scars
Women who complain about chest pain often are reassured by their doctors that there is no reason to worry because their angiograms show that the women don't have blockages in the major heart arteries, a primary cause of heart attacks in men.
Where you live could determine risk of heart attack, stroke or dying of heart disease
People living in parts of Ontario with better access to preventive health care had lower rates of cardiac events compared to residents of regions with less access, found a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Older adults with heart disease can become more independent and heart healthy with physical activity
Improving physical function among older adults with heart disease helps heart health and even the oldest have a better quality of life and greater independence.
Dietary factors associated with substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and disease
Nearly half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in the US in 2012 were associated with suboptimal consumption of certain dietary factors, according to a study appearing in the March 7 issue of JAMA.
Certain heart fat associated with higher risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women
For the first time, researchers have pinpointed a type of heart fat, linked it to a risk factor for heart disease and shown that menopausal status and estrogen levels are critical modifying factors of its associated risk in women.
Maternal chronic disease linked to higher rates of congenital heart disease in babies
Pregnant women with congenital heart defects or type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of giving birth to babies with severe congenital heart disease and should be monitored closely in the prenatal period, according to a study published in CMAJ.
More Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.