There’s a new measurement tool in town for assessing hospital errors
and safety, and it’s finding that there are more errors than we
originally thought. In fact, according to this tool, a third of patients
in the U.S. will be victims of a medical error during hospital stays.
The new tool was developed at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement
in Massachusetts. Old tools include voluntary reporting by hospitals and
an assessment method developed by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research
and Quality (AHR).
The University of Utah conducted a study that compared the three tools
by using each tool to measure errors on the same set of 795 medical records
from three different hospitals. The results varied greatly. Voluntary
reporting produced four hospital errors, AHR found 35, and the new tool
discovered 354. In other words, the two tools most commonly used severely
underestimated the incidence of hospital errors in comparison to the new
These findings, along with an article that estimates that the cost per
year of harmful medical errors is $17.1, are featured in the
April 2011 issue of Health Affairs.