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The NSPA Blog

Hospital Safety Statistics: Worse Than We Thought

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Posted on October 6th, 2013 by Teri Dreher, under Patient Advocacy

In 1999 a landmark study on medical error caused quite a stir: To Err is Human revealed data that showed that 20-30% of hospitalized patients suffered what is known in the medical community as an “Adverse Medical Outcome”. Patients entering hospitals to find compassionate, curative therapy often suffered from various kinds of medical error or safety violation. Patients either had a complication of surgery, an infection, a fall due to disorientation and sleep deprivation, malnutrition, a reaction to medication, or even a wrong body part being removed. For the past 14 years, hospitals have been trying in vain to correct such alarming findings. The New England Journal of Medicine reported in 2011 that these efforts are mostly ineffective, in 90% of the cases reported. Now along comes a new study this month, published in the Journal of Patient Safety that tells us that the data is actually much more alarming than we ever imagined. The figures reported suggest that between 210-440,000 patients per year actually die from some type of medical intervention or hospitalization that goes horribly wrong. That means that medical error is now the third leading cause of death in the US, behind heart disease and cancer. For many of us in the healthcare field, the data does not surprise us. There is a disturbing trend in healthcare recently to focus more and more of doctors’ and nurses’ time and energy on documentation, to the detriment of our time spent with patients. Ten years ago I spent 20 minutes per day charting on my patients and the rest of my day caring for them. Today, I spend 3-4 hours per day on electronic charting. Doctors spend 4-7 hours per day at their computer. Healthcare is big business and big money is at stake. Someone please tell all the MBA’s, administrators and lawyers that we need to spend time with our patients to keep them safe.

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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