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Deaths from avoidable medical error more than double in past decade, investigation shows

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Katherine Harmon
Scientific American
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Preventable medical mistakes and infections are responsible for about 200,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to an investigation by the Hearst media corporation. The report comes 10 years after the Institute of Medicine’s “To Err Is Human” analysis, which found that 44,000 to 98,000 people were dying annually due to these errors and called for the medical community and government to cut that number in half by 2004.

The precise number of these deaths is still unknown because many states lack a standard or mandatory reporting system for injuries due to medical mistakes. The investigative team gathered disparate medical records, legal documents, personnel files and reports and analyzed databases to arrive at its estimate.

Many, including President Barack Obama, have advocated for a broader adoption of electronic medical records as both a life- and cost-saver. But not everyone is convinced that current technology will help doctors and nurses who already have set ways of handling patient information. “The systems as they stand now are still fairly clunky and user unfriendly,” Robert Wachter, a professor of hospital medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Hearst. “In the last several years, we’ve seen a literature emerge of medical errors caused by computer systems.”

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This article was posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 9:50 am





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