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The $17.1 Billion Problem – the Annual Cost of Medical Errors

In 2008, the annual cost of measurable medical errors that harmed patients is estimated to be $17.1 billion. Pressure ulcers were the most common measurable medical error, followed by postoperative infections and by postlaminectomy syndrome, a condition characterized by persistent pain following back surgery.

What Kind of Quality Care Are You Receiving?

Patients have a basic expectation that they will not be harmed in the process of receiving health care. Unfortunately, unavoidable complications can cause harm to some patients, while others are injured as a result of preventable medical errors.

Medical Injury vs. Medical Error

It is important to differentiate between medical error and medical injury. Medical injury is medical care with an adverse outcome. An adverse outcome could be due to medical error or unavoidable complications. Medical injury covers a wide range of outcomes, from a mild allergic reaction to a drug to death.

Medical error is a preventable adverse outcome that results from improper medical management (a mistake of commission) rather than from the progression of an illness resulting from lack of care (a mistake of omission). A medical error may or may not result in medical injury.

Prevalence of Surgery Errors

A recent study in Colorado examining surgery errors—specifically, surgical procedures performed either on the wrong patient or at the wrong site on the right patient’s body—revealed that these errors still occurred frequently. This was the case even after the October 2008 dissemination of Medicare’s list of “never events”—serious, costly errors in inpatient care that should never happen.

These included:

  • Foreign objects left in the body after surgery
  • Falls and traumas while at a hospital
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infections
  • Mediastinitis, or inflammation in the area between the lungs, after coronary artery bypass grafting

On October 1, 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stopped paying the excess cost for inpatient stays complicated by “never events.”

We Can Help

The experienced attorneys at Charles G. Monnett III & Associates provide free initial consultations, support, and assistance in finding resources to help you and your family deal with serious injuries caused by the negligence of others.

If you or a family member would like more information about your legal options and determine whether you have a claim, call our office today at (704) 859-2003

We Care for You 

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