Preventable hospital injuries claim as many as 440,000 patients’ lives each year, representing a woefully under-met area of clinical need, according to a new report released by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
Sen. Boxer called on hospitals and clinics to devise and share ways to minimize common hospital injuries, such as infections and adverse drug events, in order to prevent needless deaths.
"Many people will be shocked to hear this, but medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in America today," Boxer said in prepared remarks. "These deaths are all the more heartbreaking for families because they are preventable."
In her report she cited research that has estimated that medical errors cost $19.5 billion each year, and that the indirect costs amount as much as $1 trillion in care and lost productivity.
Among the most common medical errors were drug-related harm, catheter- and central line-associated infections, injures and falls and obstetrical adverse events, according to a survey of nearly 150 California hospitals. All the respondents said they were taking steps to address medical errors, but a few were "stepping out and pursuing unique approaches."
Some of the creative techniques involved simple measures, such as colored sashes that indicate nurses that should not be disturbed or interrupted, such as those dispensing medication.
Other hospitals had more high-tech approaches, such as UCLA Medical Center’s ultraviolet-based hospital room disinfection systems.
Boxer plans to take her findings to other clinics to urge greater efforts to curb preventable hospital injuries and deaths.
"I will be sending this report to all the hospitals – the ones that participated and the ones that did not," she said in prepared remarks. "This is not the time to sit back and do nothing. Lives are at stake."
Boxer launched the survey in the weeks following an appearance at January’s Patient Safety, Science & Technology Summit, sponsored by Masimo’s (NSDQ:MASI) Foundation for Ethics Innovation & Competition in Healthcare.